This year, the Tesla Model S electric sedan is expected to reach 5,000 homes. Tesla is expecting to make 20,000 Model S sedans in 2013.
But late last week, we had an opportunity to speak with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said the company was producing just one or two cars a day—and with very good reason.
Musk said Tesla’s crew is taking its time primarily with leak testing, running water through the bodies of cars lacking interiors, to test their integrity. As assembly line staff members ensure the Model S’s build uniformity and quality, they’ll speed up the assembly process and start testing less and less for potential problems. Right now, Tesla tests every car, having to take it off the assembly line for a shakedown, according to Musk.
Tesla’s CEO also said otherwise production has been fairly smooth. The company is working to gets its parts supplier delivery times in line with when they’re needed in the production schedule, the only other issue Musk mentioned during a question and answer session at his other venture, SpaceX, in Hawthorne, California.
Perhaps Musk has paid attention to rival “green” premium automaker Fisker, as that automaker has faced a myriad of teething problems in its first batch of vehicles, from battery failure to fire investigations. With that company turned into an election-year political football, and both companies supported in part by loans from the Department of Energy, Tesla realizes it can’t have any mishaps.
Starting production in mid-June for first deliveries on June 22, the Model S is the company’s first completely in-house vehicle. Tesla’s previous vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, was built until the end of 2011 and was largely based on the Lotus Elise’s that was shipped over from England and finished in the U.S. The Model S is built completely in Fremont, Calif., by the startup automaker.
When sales reports come around, don’t expect the Model S to set any records. Heck, don’t expect Tesla to even hit 100 units sold in its first month. For at least the time being, Tesla is going to keep plodding along at a molasses-slow pace to make sure it doesn’t have any missteps. We’re eager to see Tesla get up to full capacity, as the automaker has said it has sold out of first-year cars and is deep into the 2013 model year with reservations.
Can the automaker break into one of the toughest industries in the world? Only time will tell.
By Jacob Brown