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New Yorker: Elon Musk has delivery issues

Discussion in 'Tesla Motors' started by MountainRoad, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. MountainRoad

    MountainRoad Member

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    Elon Musk Has Delivery Issues

    This New Yorker article by Jeffrey Rothfeder seems unfairly critical of Tesla, especially when you consider that--at least until the Bolt becomes more widely available--it is actually the only car company delivering on the promise of long-range all-electric vehicles.

    That's not to say that it's all bad. I think Rothfeder may have a good point about the apparent lack of investment in new service centers to match the higher expected volumes of Model 3 sales. I had not previously heard the bit about Cristina Balan. And it's understandable that traditional car manufacturers would be skeptical about Musk's ambitions to move the production line 20 times faster.

    But Musk and Tesla have proven skeptics wrong over and over again in the past, and one of the reasons Tesla "misses" it's guidance is that Musk sets such ambitious goals that even when Tesla misses, it is still outperforming every other car manufacturer by a wide margin. My favorite line: "In the auto industry, Musk's production assertions are viewed as the manufacturing equivalent of vapor ware...". That's a bit rich coming from car companies that have been promising zero-emission vehicles and self-driving capabilities for years without ever delivering anything close to what my Model S with Autopilot 1.0 can already do. Perhaps Tesla will fail to meet all of Musks super-ambitious goals, but even so, it could "fail" its way to being the most successful car company, leaving all the established car companies, carefully meeting their conservative production goals, in the dust!
     
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  2. larmor

    larmor Member

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    The production line will be rate limited by its slowest part or slowest input material. That's why it can't be proven till its fully running-all or none. That is where the incredulity arises from since it can't be proven till its running.

    Are there inefficiencies in manufacturing, i'm not in manufacturing, but I hazard to say there are probably efficiencies to gain. On a related note, the batter factory video (GF) mentions that there is 80% saving in energy for the battery making process. The machine building the machine is getting better..
     
  3. BluestarE3

    BluestarE3 Active Member

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    Oh, and here I thought the article is about Elon's lack of glibness/polish when speaking in public and that this failing is unbecoming for the CEO of two multi-billion dollar companies. :)
     
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  4. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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    Well that's because they can't see any need nor advantage nor (crucially) any WAY to improve the design of the traditional vehicle production line.

    Sometimes, outsiders can spot a trick that's been missed.
     
  5. EinSV

    EinSV Active Member

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    Some version of this article has been recirculating periodically since about 2003 ("vaporware," "auto industry insiders say it can't be done," etc.).

    You would think with what has been accomplished with the Model S beating the pants off the best Germany has to offer they would give it a rest.
     
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  6. Vitold

    Vitold Active Member

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    At least the article is kind enough to mention SpaceX accomplishments - two explosions...
     
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  7. N5329K

    N5329K Member

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    Well, first off remember that the New Yorker, like just about all members of the fact-based journalism world, is desperate for readers. And few things draw as many eyeballs as "Tesla" or "Elon Musk." This underscores just how successful Tesla has become at raising awareness of electric vehicles that both look good and do good. Who needs advertisements? The New Yorker can't win over many readers with "Hillary Clinton gave birth to a mermaid!" So they leave that to other outlets.
    Second, the thrust of the article was probably not entirely wrong. Every large organization (which Tesla has become), becomes ever more hostile to internal "stories" that don't match their internal or external images. When those stories are in fact true, or even true-ish, the first impulse in Dilbert World is to kick out the story teller. Not respond to the problem. And that engineer who left the company was not the only voice screaming about quality issues. I have read a good many anguished screams about quality issues right here.
    Finally, I think the survival of the company depends on not screwing up with the Model 3. Anything, any voice, that helps them avoid screwing up is, for all of us, a very good thing. Even if it's hard to read. We may want the Model 3 to succeed. But Tesla needs it to succeed.
    If Mr Musk wants to give the right impression to a world divided into a small number of fans and advocates, a larger group of hostiles, and an even bigger group of people who have heard of Tesla, are interested in the "real life Tony Stark", he will award bonus bucks to any employee who can demonstrate a problem and a solution. That he (according to the New Yorker) didn't do that with the engineer in question, seems both unfortunate, and not a little ominous.
    Robin
     
  8. MikeC

    MikeC Active Member

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  9. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    Well at the very least it is full of inaccuracies. Quote: "(Musk) intends to do this with something he calls a “machine that builds the machine,” a nearly fully automated factory that will assemble cars at speeds greater than any other global automaker. Beginning in 2018, this plant, an extension of Tesla’s current facility in Fremont, California, is slated to produce as many as half a million vehicles each year..."

    Actually the existing Fremont plant has in the past and according to Musk will in the near future produce 500,000 cars/year, no "extension" required. Yes, recently Tesla got permits from the city of Fremont to expand the plant, but that expansion hasn't even started and isn't necessary to meet the 500,000 year goal based on what Musk has said in the past.

    Quote: "There are upwards of thirty thousand components in a typical car"

    Musk has said there are about 4,000 parts in a typical car, and 2,000 in a Tesla. Where did "30,000" come from? Probably because the author wants to make the process of building a car sound even harder than it actually is.

    Quote: "in September an explosion destroyed an unmanned SpaceX rocket on the launch pad during a fuelling exercise—an incident that called into question the viability of Musk’s radical notion to refuel craft en route, with astronauts on board. "

    The recent SpaceX rocket failure doesn't "call into question" their plan to refuel the Interplanetary Transport System spacecraft after it launches, the company has already resolved the issue. It simply means changing slightly the rocket fueling process. And the refueling of the ITS won't be "enroute" it will be in LEO.

    I found this statement to be truly absurd, quote: "...like Trump, Musk has used limited success to create an aura around himself, one that suggests he is capable of superhuman feats."

    Elon's real world accomplishments are responsible for his reputation. They are in no way comparable to Mr. Trump's numerous bankrupticies, pathetic reality show lifestyle, overt racism, xenophobia, mysogyny, and complete disregard for facts and the truth. For a journalist like Mr. Rothfelder to make such a comparison I can only assume that he is desperate for attention to be paid to his article.
     
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  10. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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  11. sorka

    sorka Active Member

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    ..and it will still be the case even when and if the bolt becomes widely available as the bolt is not a long range electric vehicle without a rapid L3 charging network.
     
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  12. KD5MDK

    KD5MDK Member

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    Manufacturing efficiency might be the most studied topic in business in the last 100 years. Any improvement you can make earns massive returns, from reduced waste, feed stock costs, avoided capital investment, warranty expenditures and labor costs. Also, with huge volumes comes savings from tiny changes, so choices that are essentially meaningless at small volumes make huge differences at scale.

    Where you get manufacturing innovation comes from improvements in materials, in the capability of machinery and tools, of technical changes allowing something that was previously possible but uneconomic become feasible. It also comes from internal incentives that realign established choices.
    That's the kind of change that means lithium batteries can suddenly become a viable model for vehicle energy storage. It includes being able to outsource components because you can rely on a supplier to meet a specification and deliver as promised. It means that if one company has high overhead costs, it has limitations that other companies without those overheads can work around and avoid.

    But I don't think there's a lot of improvements available to a vehicle production line. The Fremont capacity for ~500,000 vehicles was a reflection of a global supply chain, of projected demand for specific vehicle models, of a whole lot of other constraints and opportunities that optimized around a particular result. The capacity of Tesla in the same physical footprint is going to be different because they do more in house work. Every activity that isn't final assembly is going to reduce the total capacity from its theoretical maximum and reflect those different constraints.

    I definitely believe Tesla has an innovative product that will sell in high numbers and may participate in changing the world. But I don't think they have amazing manufacturing efficiencies that other companies that have been optimizing for this topic for decades don't have.
     
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