Another Tesla Model 3 Teardown Highlights Strengths & Opportunities For Tesla

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Sandy Munro and his team at Munro and Associates have been tearing cars down for decades. As legacy gas and diesel powertrains are being replaced by electrified versions and new electric car companies continue to sprout (seemingly every other day), Munro and Associates are putting their experience to work tearing down the latest and greatest electric cars.

A new video, which you’ll have to click over to YouTube to view, details some of the key things Munro and Associates recently learned in tearing down a second Model 3. In their coverage of their first teardown of the Model 3 back in July, they confirmed a bottom-up cost to build the Model 3 is probably under $30,000, supporting Tesla’s estimate that it could achieve nearly a 30% margin on the car. They also noted that the electronics in the Model 3 were “like a symphony of engineering,” which, if I’m being honest, is just fun to say.

Tearing down their second Model 3 resulted in another glowing conclusion from the narrator — “Tesla are ahead of the game in all areas but one.” They went on to note that the battery module is a “brilliant piece of engineering.” After the brief intro, the video dives into a section that highlights the one shortcoming identified with the model — the car’s body.

“The car’s body is too complex, expensive, heavy and difficult to build,” according to the narrator, summing up the findings from Sandy Munro and his team. Munro went on to specify the shortcomings of the Model 3 body in what feels like a healthy dose of industry expertise being applied to a car company that he believes still has a lot to learn.

“This is the reason I feel that Tesla has problems. The body and weight and the closures that go along with it are not designed for manufacturability,” Munro said. “They don’t do a good job at part count. The weights are too high. The body is much too stiff.” (One has to wonder, though, how much of this is due to Tesla’s focus on safety and the Model 3’s unprecedented NHTSA safety score — something that just built on Tesla’s previous industry leadership. Indeed, see Elon Musk’s tweet below for confirmation of at least part of this theory.)

Munro’s feedback on the body of the car is surprising given how much effort Tesla has put into optimizing the Model 3 for manufacturability, but it serves to put some substance behind the critiques of Tesla’s informal approach to manufacturing. There is always room for improvement, even after disrupting the entire automotive industry three different times with three different vehicles.

Munro notes that in his analysis that the body shop should be more efficient. Interestingly, Munro believes the body of the car would be more efficient to build if it were done at a traditional automotive factory. “This thing would have been a brilliant design,” Munro said. Tesla, on the other hand, builds the Model 3 exclusively at the former GM–Toyota NUUMI factory in Fremont, which has been retrofitted with a combination of automation and manual labor that lives in a constant state of flux.

The critique from Munro and his team feels very balanced, but the sensationalist, clickbait headlines from Bloomberg and the fact that the video leads with the one thing about the car that’s not amazing is disingenuous. Having said that, the video does highlight a few of the amazing things about the car, after the deep dive into the body of the car.

Munro said that, if the Model 3 were built at a traditional factory, “[Tesla] could have clobbered everybody. Nobody would have been able to catch up.” Whether that is true or not, we will never know, but Model 3 sales tell a very compelling story in favor of Tesla, while sales of the Chevrolet Bolt, which is built in a traditional automotive factory, struggles to gain a significant foothold.

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Another key focus of the analysis has been the motors that propel the vehicles. Munro’s analysis estimated that Tesla’s motor for the Model 3 costs an estimated $754, which is significantly cheaper than the motors used in the Chevrolet Bolt ($836) and BMW i3 ($841). The pricing advantage reveals yet another of the paradigm shifts EVs are bringing about, as the cost of the motors in vehicles is now much lower than the cost of engines found in gas and diesel vehicles.

On the back end of the video, Munro opened up about how much fun the Tesla Model 3 was to drive. “This is wicked fast,” he said of the car. That instant torque has even longtime car industry experts smiling from ear to ear.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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