Elon Musk has admitted that automation has been holding back Tesla’s Model 3 production and that humans, rather than machines, were the answer.
The electric car maker’s chief executive said that one of the reasons Tesla has struggled to reach promised production volumes was because of the company’s “excessive automation”.
Asked whether robots had slowed down production, rather than speeding it up, during a tour around Tesla’s factory by CBS, Musk replied: “Yes, they did … We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”
“Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated,” Musk added later.
Caught in what Musk has called “manufacturing hell”, the electric car firm has failed to hit its weekly production target of 2,500 Model 3 vehicles in the first quarter of 2018, fostering doubt within the industry that Tesla will be able to hit its 5,000-a-week target in three months time.
The significant production shortfall has delayed crucial customer deliveries. Musk said he was forced to take direct control of the production line at the beginning of April, resorting to pulling all-nighters and sleeping at the factory.
“We were able to unlock some of the critical things that were holding us back from reaching 2,000 cars a week. But since then, we’ve continued to do 2,000 cars a week,” he said.
At the same time Tesla is facing negative publicity over a fatal crash of one of its Model X SUVs that was driving using the firm’s Autopilot mode, openly feuding with the US National Transportation Safety Board and attempting to suppress issues before media attention.