Tesla’s tent highlights the growing gulf between Musk and his critics
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Tesla’s tent highlights the growing gulf between Musk and his critics

Elon Musk is just days away from a major deadline: the delivery of 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week. Musk, the founder, president, and CEO of futuristic luxury carmaker Tesla, has promised to achieve this manufacturing milestone by the end of June. That’s an ambitious task, but he has a secret weapon: a massive tent, the size of two football fields, erected outside of the company’s factory. It’s a divisive move: Musk loves it (“pretty sweet” is the term he used to describe it); manufacturing experts are at a loss for words (“It’s insanity” according to Sanford C. Bernstein’s auto-assembly specialist Max Warburton).

Tesla’s share price has risen by 23% over the last 30 days!

graph 2806 tesla

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

The Model 3 is a constant talking point when it comes to Tesla. It’s described as the car that will bring electrification to the masses – a luxury vehicle with a price tag that is not utterly exorbitant. However, the company has missed deadlines on production figures, with the situation becoming so serious that Musk himself has stepped in to oversee production.

The tent is Musk’s solution to this ongoing problem. He boasts that it has an “entire new general assembly line,” built in just three weeks with spare parts. No one knows if it is fully operational, and Tesla has declined a request for comment. Manufacturing experts are skeptical – but Musk has, for the most part, built his reputation on defying the limitations that experts believe in. The former Stanford PhD candidate (he studied energy physics) thrives on innovation to the point that he is widely regarded as the inspiration for Marvel’s engineering genius Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. Is this a case of Musk revolutionising yet another process?

Experts say no. Musk admitted earlier this year that he had pushed automation too far, and the manufacturing line in the factory wasn’t working. Warburton is amongst the detractors that think Musk’s tent is a stopgap solution to a fundamental production weakness. In an email, he wrote: “The existing line isn’t functional, it can’t build cars as planned and there isn’t room to get people into work stations to replace the non-functioning robots. So here we have it—build cars manually in the parking lot.”

Musk disagrees – and, having recently won a shareholder vote to remain as president, his power over the company is at its zenith. Will he pull another one out of the bag and finally get the Model 3 out on the road?

Disclosure

Dominion holds Tesla in its Global Trends Luxury Fund.


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