There has been a lot of talk about what the fate of Tesla will be when the big legacy automakers start producing EVs in earnest. With their century of experience and established production lines, they will roll over Tesla. They will show how real carmakers take a new model through production.
The good news: We can actually compare Tesla to a very experienced carmaker bringing a comparable electric car to production. I am talking of course about the Chevy Bolt from GM.
Only, in this case, it is not the big experienced carmaker with lots of cash that thrashes Tesla — it is the other way around. While still struggling to get production bug free, Tesla already delivers more electric cars to customers than GM. And it is not because there is no demand for the Bolt. There are tens of thousands prospective Chevy Bolt customers in Canada, South Korea, and Europe, but, unfortunately, GM cannot deliver.
In July 2017 at its “start of production,” Tesla was probably in the same place as GM was in March 2016 when it started Bolt pre-production. The production equipment was installed, the suppliers could deliver the parts, the workers had to be trained, and the equipment configured.
It took GM nine months to deliver the first batch of Bolts to customers and GM was praised for delivering a great car.
It took Tesla about six months to deliver the first batch to customers, and the critics had a field day. The talks of failure and broken promises filled the airwaves.
Putting the path to production side by side should make comparison easy.
|late 2015 /
|Physically preparing assembly line for Bolt production.||April–June 2017||
|March 2016||Start of pre-production on existing assembly line with experienced labor.||July 2017||
|June 2016||First pre-production Bolts sighted driving around.||Sep–Nov 2017||
|Sep 2016||GM has ample Bolt models for test drives by journalists.||December 2017||First reviews from bloggers and journalists.|
||December 2017||First deliveries to non-employees.|
Tesla clearly does not have a production scaling problem. It accomplished in six months what GM did in nine months. The PR debacle was purely badly managed expectations and a communications problem.
Musk took a big risk by calling the start of Model 3 assembly line configuration start of Model 3 production.
In the future, Tesla should only create the hype about their products, but stay mute on the timelines.
Tesla image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica, Chevy Bolt image courtesy: GM