Is Tesla Ever Late? No, Not Really.

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Now, such a headline could easily make many people roll their eyes. However, a case can be made that Tesla is moving the world towards sustainability at “ludicrous speed.” Investors are annoyed that Musk does not set predictable targets and meet them in the conventional (boring) way. Instead, Tesla determines that he and his crew will burn the midnight oil in the way Sir Isaac Newton did to achieve greatness in science as much as possible.

A quick Google search will bring back hundreds of articles about how Tesla cannot do anything in a timely fashion and is always on the verge of bankruptcy. Many of these articles are copycats, while many of the originals are outright lies cleverly told by think tanks guided in secret by the corporations absolutely terrified of the disruptive tsunami that is Tesla. Tsunamis start out looking small, but then their intensity grows.

Currently, hundreds of articles are complaining about slow Model 3 production. The reality is that Tesla is moving at light speed compared with the likes of GM, Ford, Toyota, and others.

To have a little fun with the issue of current Model 3 production hell, let us look at another simple, silly analogy.

All over the world, teachers often assign lengthy essays and give students 4–12 weeks to complete the essay. Out of a billion students, the vast majority will wait a few days before the due date to even start a rough draft. Maybe 100 million will start early and do some pre-writing. Then, one student out of a billion (or some very large number) will email a completed essay 6 hours after it was assigned. The essay ends up being so good, it makes the teacher laugh and cry at the same time. Aside from the essay, it also comes with an animated video that highlights the main points. That one student out of a billion is Tesla.

The next day, the teacher tells the whole class how well Tesla did, and that all students should try to be like Tesla. Four jealous bullies will call Tesla a teacher’s pet and accuse Tesla of plagiarism. Those four bullies are the mainstream media, fossil fuels, traditional automakers, and uncompromising partisans opposed to most science.

Never fear, for there is a squad of good kids that put the bullies in their place. They will not tolerate this pathetic bullying and dishonesty. That squad? The Tesla fanboys (and girls!), led by, amongst other media and groups.

To thank its fanbase, Tesla promises to write a 3,000 page epic trilogy comprised only of verbal prose. The trilogy will have three newly created languages similar to the J.R.R. Tolkien classic Lord of the Rings. Tesla then states hopefully to have it published after working non-stop for 6 months. After 7 months, Tesla is a little behind and the four bullies start complaining again that the trilogy is not finished. And the cycle of bashing begins again.

Leaving our analogy and coming back to Tesla Model 3 production hell. There is actually some really good news most people are not seeing.

Tesla came out several years ago and said the Gigafactory would cut battery pack costs by 30–50%. Many Tesla fans counted that as great news, and perhaps assumed that Gigafactory was likely to be up and running lickity split. In truth, it is a massive undertaking. The Gigafactory is an entire redesign of the battery pack manufacturing process. It is not just a large factory; it is thousands of innovations.

So, the good news here is that Tesla has its Fremont, California, car factory humming pretty well, while battery packs (made at the Reno, Nevada, Gigafactory) have been the main bottleneck. Very few who follow Tesla, including CEO Elon Musk, thought the battery packs would be the issue. With the Tesla Model X, the delay had been the futuristic falcon-wing doors, innovative back seats, and record-large windshield.

Heck, Tesla had begun battery storage production months earlier, so who would think Tesla would not have enough batteries for its cars. It’s going to take a little more time to revolutionize battery pack manufacturing and get costs down 30–50%. However, the next gigafactories will be closer to copy & paste (maybe minus some modest continual innovation). To clarify the copy & paste analogy, much of the innovation in Gigafactory 1 is its software. It is entire design is stored electronically.

So, Tesla’s car manufacturing is going well enough that it’s keeping ahead of battery production. [Editor’s note: So, it seems people who claim “Tesla can’t build cars” are wrong. Tesla can build cars, but it has been having trouble mass producing batteries for the Model 3, but no other automakers are even trying to produce at such a scale, and they are stuck relying on the batteries they can get (more expensively) from suppliers.] We always knew Tesla’s timelines were aggressive and it really does not budget much extra time for unforeseen complications. Elon makes his calculations based upon the variables he knows. From his perspective, adding extra time into those goals just allows for procrastination.

Fossil fuel and car companies can pay to have exaggerated articles written about these delays, but the Tesla brand might just be invincible. Tesla customers will not be discouraged. The roughly year-long waitlist will not hurt the brand. In fact, in some ways, the waitlist helps. It is like a nightclub that has a long line that grabs everyone’s attention. Or it is like Apple’s customers waiting in line for multiple days for the next release of the iPhone. It is marketing gold.

So, while Tesla may seem 6 months to a year behind its stated goals, in all reality, it is years ahead of everyone else. Should any company manage to eventually pass Tesla, us fanboys (and girls) have but one thing to say — “We sure did not see you coming, but THANK YOU.”

For now, we will patiently wait for our spot in line. The day when Tesla cars are waiting on a lot to be purchased, we will be halfway to utopia. Or do I just have my Tesla rosy-eyed goggles on?

(Constructive criticism always welcome, which of course is a key to success.)

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Kurt Lowder

I am a jock turned wannabe geek. I fell in love with science later in life thanks to the History Channel show the “Universe.” Having taught middle school science, I strongly feel Astronomy should be taught every year because nothing excites students more than learning about the cosmos. I became an avid cleantech fan because it gives me hope about the future. My wife, my dogs, and I live simply because we love to travel the world backpacker style.

Kurt Lowder has 58 posts and counting. See all posts by Kurt Lowder