Tesla founder Elon Musk has reportedly taken charge of Model 3 production after several missed production deadlines, calling it the “highest priority”. A Tesla spokesman said Musk had asked engineering chief Doug Field to manage both engineering and production a year earlier. Now, Field will be focused on vehicle engineering.
First-quarter production numbers for the Model 3 are expected to be released this week and are expected to fall short of the company’s forecasts. Auto industry blogs reported that production of the Model 3 has passed the 2,000 per week production rate. Tesla had set a target of 2,500 per week for the end of March. Bloomberg estimates that Tesla was able to produce 9,285 Model 3s for the quarter.
Tesla is under enormous pressure to build the Model 3 fast enough to meet customer demand. Analysts see the Model 3 as crucial to the luxury electric automaker’s long-term profitability. Tesla wants to double production in the next three months, to 5,000 cars a week. Musk had made a prior forecast of 5,000 a week by the end of 2017. Some are questioning whether the company could sustain such numbers.
Tesla has said it had about 500,000 advance reservations from customers for the Model 3 since it was unveiled two years ago. Manufacturing bottlenecks have delayed production and deliveries to customers. It’s not clear where Tesla’s current bottlenecks reside. This is not the first time the company has missed production targets due to manufacturing problems. When Tesla rolled out the Model X in late 2015, it was years behind schedule.
A recent crash involving Tesla’s autopilot technology has also taken a toll on the company’s image. Tesla said that the Model X involved in a fatal crash in California last week had activated its Autopilot system. In a blog post, Tesla said “the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.” The accident has raised new questions about the semi-autonomous driving system.
The hits just keep coming for the company. A problem with a power-steer component has led to a voluntary recall of 123,000 Model S vehicles. There are also concerns about the company’s ability to raise new capital. So far in 2018, the company’s shares are down 19 percent.