How Tesla Can Silence the Critics and Doubters

Robin Ren Global VP and Head of APAC Tesla Motors makes a speech during the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) at the National Convention Centre in Beijing on April 28, 2016. GMIC is hosting mobile executives, entrepreneurs, developers, and investors from around the world. Tesla can silence the critics.
Robin Ren, Global VP and Head of APAC Tesla Motors, discusses the four Tesla models. | Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Tesla’s goals, considered ambitious by all, have become ludicrous in the eyes of some industry observers. The electric car maker’s planned jump in production volumes from 50,000 to 500,000 in three years’ time has attracted the most attention. Though the leap forward is unprecedented in the modern auto industry, Tesla can silence the critics by learning from its Model X mistakes and delivering a relatively bug-free Model 3 in 2017.

Questions about Tesla’s production ramp-up were voiced by figures across the industry. According to reporting by Reuters, suppliers wonder how they could begin processing orders while the Model 3 design was still pending. Likewise, a supply sales executive questioned Tesla’s ability to add so much volume to an assembly line when Detroit automakers with decades of experience take 18 to 24 months pulling off similar transitions.

A view of a fully electric Tesla car on an assembly line at the new Tesla Motors car factory in Tilburg, the Netherlands, during the opening and launch of the new factory, on August 22, 2013. The American electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, led by American-South African inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk, will be assembling fully electric cars for the European market in this new factory. AFP PHOTO / ANP / GUUS SCHOONEWILLE ***Netherlands out*** (Photo credit should read Guus Schoonewille/AFP/Getty Images)
View of a Model S on an assembly line at the new Tesla Motors factory in the Netherlands. | Guus Schoonewille/AFP/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk cited the inherent simplicity of the Model 3 design, a capable executive team, and motivated supplier chain as three things that would help his company enter uncharted production territory. Fewer parts in the Model 3 theoretically would make the car easier to produce than Model S or Model X, and the automaker’s new production head brings with him experience from Audi.

Suppliers seem willing to cooperate with Tesla’s leap forward. In an interview with reporters, Panasonic’s head of automotive and industrial division said his company was ready to advance the timeline so as “not to be a bottleneck” in the process. Musk also noted that his company may acquire suppliers, taking them in-house to ease the transition. Yet it remains to be seen if Tesla can silence the critics by completing the Model 3 design soon.

A Tesla Model X is displayed during the Geneva Motor Show 2016 on March 1, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. The 86th International auto show will run from March 3 to March 16
A Tesla Model X is displayed during the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. | Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Ambitious vehicle designs led to the many delays of the Model X. Later, Musk admitted the company would have been a tad less perfectionist if given a second try. If his team had presented a more stripped-down mode and added the dazzling suite of new technologies later, chances are the automaker would have come closer to deadlines and grappled with fewer bugs than the Model X has been reported to have.

In that respect, Tesla has the perfect test case in the Model 3 design and rollout. Musk said the company’s first vehicle out of the luxury-price bracket will have as many as 1,000 fewer components than the brand’s other models. (Anyone who has seen Model 3’s interior can attest to the ultra-simplistic design there.) With the focus on getting it right the first time, there are fewer hitches when volume production becomes necessary.

Though summer 2017 seems not too far away, there are many ways Tesla can silence the critics in the meantime. Setting realistic pre-production goals and meeting them would be a good place to start. Suppliers take on big risks when they ramp up their own production to meet automaker benchmarks. If Tesla can prove it is worthy of the risk, Musk and his team may actually deliver on the quantum leap in scale.

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