By most accounts, Tesla Model 3 is the coolest thing to ever happen to electric cars. It’s like a hip nephew of the trailblazing Model S. The technology, performance, and style are all there. Then the fact that many more people can afford Model 3 makes it a home run. But we’ve heard about awesome future EVs from many automakers. To date, the only one with a real production schedule is Chevrolet Bolt EV.
So we hold Tesla to the same standard we’ve held the rest: Talk to us when it’s available to buy and drive. (Seriously, let us know. We made a reservation.) Until that day comes, skeptics will be out there circulating theories about why the release date is fictional or more likely to arrive in 2019. We don’t blame them. After all, Model S and X both had significant delays, and complaints about early build-quality suggest they were appropriate.
This plan of attack will not work for a car Tesla hopes to sell in high volume right off the bat. Delays on 100,000 orders and/or production issues would create a nightmare for the company at the moment it expects to enter the limelight. Here are four things the EV maker can do to avoid major Model 3 delays.
1. Near-production models in 2016
This one sounds obvious. To get the parts necessary to deliver a car to tens of thousands of consumers in 2017, Tesla would need to give exact specs to manufacturers long in advance, and that takes real-world testing. We have yet to see reports of suppliers who have that information as of the fourth quarter in 2016.
Back in July, the “pencils down” moment for the final design arrived, which was the essential first step in the process. According to skeptical auto industry executives speaking to Reuters in May, the timeline was already stressed for a company hoping to launch an all-new EV by the third quarter of 2017.
2. Keep it simple
Part of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s rationale behind the quick Model 3 launch is it will have fewer parts than other cars — even fewer than Model S. The idea was keeping it as simple as possible so the launch would be faster and smoother than with previous cars. Unless we hear of problems well ahead of the release date, we can buy this line of reasoning.
Model 3 will not have over-the-top design elements like the falcon-wing doors that plagued the company’s SUV. Skeptics might say any all-new car will have its issues during early production; Tesla planned for at least some in its delivery plans. According to the automaker, the first deliveries will go to Californians so problems are resolved in a timely fashion. Then production should continue as scheduled.
3. A massive plant upgrade
In addition to perfecting the actual car, Tesla needs a great deal more space to produce 500,000 vehicles by 2018. According to the Los Angeles Times, this effort has already begun in earnest. Tesla bought a 25-acre lot north of its Fremont plant and submitted a proposal to the city zoning commission to double its factory footprint.
Next up is preparing the machinery that would produce Model 3 in volume. As we saw from the ramp-up of Model S production and its impact on the Model X launch, Tesla is still small enough to struggle in this aspect of the business. Avoiding future delays requires a bigger, smoother plant operation by fall 2017.
4. Raise more money
Members of the auto industry who doubted Tesla’s ability to rush Model 3 to completion mentioned there was one thing that could help — money. By paying a premium for advanced production schedules and hiring more engineers to perfect designs, there is the possibility Model 3 could become another chapter in the Elon Musk legend.
Getting that money means convincing investors this third-gen Tesla will be the game-changer Musk said it will be. Will it be worth another extended cash crunch for a company not known for its profitability? Grabbing market share in this industry takes aggressive moves of this nature. Maybe the course Musk charted will be the right one after all.