Update: There are detailed and insightful comments from readers below this story. Be sure to jump into those for more context and discussion.
Reuters is reporting that it has learned from two sources with knowledge of Tesla’s supply chain operations that the company is soliciting preliminary bids from potential suppliers for the Model Y electric SUV/CUV. According to those sources, production is tentatively scheduled to begin in November of 2019, with manufacturing in China starting up two years after that.
Take all of this with an appropriately sized grain of salt. Tesla doesn’t even have a production facility for the Model Y as of yet and its status in China depends on which headline you choose to believe on any given day. Since the Model Y will be a variant of the Model 3 (last we heard), early production could take place at the Fremont factory, where the parking lot is already so crowded there’s no more room for employees’ cars. However, Musk is talking about building a million Model Y vehicles a year. Doing that in Fremont seems optimistic even for the irrepressibly upbeat Mr. Musk.
Tesla has submitted requests for information (RFI) to several suppliers, according to the sources. An RFI is a preliminary step in the supply chain process. Basically, a manufacturer says to a supplier, “Here are the proposed specs. How much will it cost to build X number of these widgets and when can you deliver them?” The company then takes all the responses and decides who can deliver the parts it wants with the quality they need at the lowest price.
Reuters says automakers normally start rounding up suppliers about 2½ years before production is scheduled to begin. One source says doing it 18 months in advance is “aggressive, but possible.” It could theoretically happen even quicker considering that the Model Y will be based on the Model 3 chassis.
The Tesla RFIs were notably short on details compared to what is normal in the industry and contained no estimated production volumes, the two sources say. Tesla declined to comment on the Reuters story and has not given any hints as of yet as to where the production of the Model Y would take place.
Related: Tesla PR Disaster 10 Times As Good As Chevy Bolt Ramp Up
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