I guess I should preface this video by saying that it is largely a joke. That is hopefully obvious within a few moments of watching it. The article, however, is not a joke.
Walking into Tesla’s large, open, light office space at its Fremont factory, it only took a moment before something hit me. The atmosphere is enormously different from the image of Tesla that you find in much of the media.
The day of our visit was less than one short week after the company announced both its $35,000 Model 3 and a shift to online-only sales. While much of the media (including CleanTechnica) was feverishly trying to figure out what everything meant, what stimulated the changes in sales, what was going on with the stock, and what the future of Tesla would look like, hundreds of Tesla employees were happily working away at their desks, chatting with each other, and entering or exiting the front doors.
When we strolled through the factory, it was the same. People were calm, smiling, and working hard. When we stopped to talk to some of them, they often exuded pride in their work and happiness for being part of the Tesla story. They didn’t hide from cameras (for the most part), but they also weren’t prepped for the visit — sometimes staring at us like we were rare animals in the zoo. The media? Spies? Enemies or friends?
Of course, some of them were regular CleanTechnica readers who scroll our stories when they wake up in the morning, before pulling themselves out of bed and over to the breakfast table. That was cool to hear, and definitely was not expected. These people didn’t highlight any drama, didn’t drown in their sorrows or reveal any signs of Elon whipping them, and they apparently weren’t feeling down about the relentless media attacks. They were having fun! They were happily toiling away at their cool jobs and enthusiastically told us about what they do every day, answering essentially all of our questions — just not the ones poking for specific numbers, since those of course can’t be revealed to people like me.
I definitely wasn’t searching for this story that I’m writing right now. On the trip to learn more about Tesla, I simply expected to get into the details. I entered the doors with an open mind, ready to soak up what I saw and write about whatever floated my boat. It just struck me after a few minutes inside the doors and walls of Tesla, “How can the atmosphere inside the company be so different from how the media portrays it?”
It reminded me of my first test drive of a real, live Tesla Model 3. The title of that review article was, “Sorry, Elon — Tesla Model 3 Much Better Than I Expected.” The apology (which was sort of meant as a joke, but since Elon actually ended up seeing and retweeting the piece, it did end up being a genuine apology) was partly an apology for falling for the anti-Tesla FUD. I thought the FUD didn’t affect me, but when I experienced the super premium Model 3, its wonderful doors and feel, the soft seats, and the easy-to-use navigation screen, I realized that the countless comments of Tesla trolls had even seeped into my expectations a bit. The good news is that meant I was happily surprised by the car. (The other part of the apology was because I liked the Model 3 more than the Model S, which is still the case.)
But let’s get back to the Tesla tour we took last week. When we got into the factory and talked to various production engineers, we asked questions about burst rates, slow periods, and much more. Top engineers didn’t understand where the media hype about some of these things originated. They were consistent — production is continuously rolling strongly. They are constantly trying to produce a steady and high-volume stream of cars. There aren’t big “bursts” and then declines in production. And the whole production process is going well. Now, if you’re cynical and presume you know better, you may think I was lied to, tricked, taken for a fool. I consider myself to be a pretty good read of character and really good at noticing when someone is pulling my chain or trying to mislead me. These people were not. Tesla production, like many things, is not what company critics would have you believe.
It’s funny, I had this story on the article list after the Tesla site visit, I was ready to start drafting it, and then I saw the following tweet from Ross Gerber:
The perception in the media and the reality at Tesla is a huge gulf. This company is doing extremely well and the worst is clearly behind it. $tsla
— Ross Gerber (@GerberKawasaki) March 8, 2019
I don’t know if he went on a tour around the same time or just came to the same thought in a different way, but Ross’s tweet lined up smoothly with my thoughts. There’s the anti-Tesla hype, and then there’s the reality.
Someone at Tesla indicated that Tesla executives are routinely misquoted, with some “quotes” seemingly coming out of thin air. It’s clearly frustrating for them, and bewildering. The whole approach many in the mainstream media have towards Tesla is confusing overall. There’s a US manufacturing revival on the scene (a cleantech one at that), but many in the media seem intent on smearing the company, sometimes with completely incorrect quotes. Unfortunately, that has become a big part of the broader Tesla story.
We have much more to come from our visit and our interviews, but have no doubt about it, the motto inside Tesla is essentially this one: “Keep Calm And Charge On.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 11, 2019
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 11, 2019