Tesla Motors has blamed its own hubris for the latest in a string of production shortfalls, as the US electric carmaker on Monday revealed continuing glitches with the ramp-up of its ambitious falcon-wing vehicle, the Model X.
Coming less than a week after potential customers lined up in large numbers at Tesla’s stores to pre-order its first mass-market electric car, the Model 3, the setback added to signs that while Tesla has become a master at stirring up excitement about its cars, it is not as good at making them.
Total vehicle deliveries in the first quarter of this year reached 14,820, an increase of 50 per cent from the year before, the company said. That was well short of the 16,000 it had forecast for the period. Only 2,400 of the deliveries were for the Model X.
However, Tesla said it had overcome production problems by the end of the quarter and that it “remains on track to deliver 80,000-90,000 new vehicles” this year.
The California-based company blamed parts shortages for the setback. The Model X, which was finally launched late last year, was bedevilled by delays because of the company’s ambitious design choices, particularly its vertically lifting doors. It also faced problems caused by the wide array of new components required for the vehicle, forcing the company to take production of some parts in-house to prevent a bottleneck.
Despite that, it said “half a dozen out of more than 8,000 unique parts” were in short supply in the first two months of this year, limiting production.
“Tesla’s hubris in adding far too much new technology to the Model X in version 1.0” was one of the reasons for the parts problems, the company said in a statement. It had not been able to validate suppliers quickly enough, and it had not built up “broad enough internal capability to manufacture the parts in-house”.
The continuing evidence of execution problems has left lingering doubts over the company as it prepares for the all-important introduction of the Model 3, which is due for launch late next year.
Tesla has said it hopes to meet its production target of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2020 from its existing assembly plant on the East side of the San Francisco bay, though it has admitted that this would stretch the facility to its limits.
“I wouldn’t say it’s straightforward, but it’s very do-able,” Elon Musk, chief executive, said last week when he unveiled the Model 3.
To prevent a repeat of the Model X problems, Tesla has said the Model 3 has been designed with ease of manufacturing in mind. It also said on Monday that it would learn from its latest production glitches. “Tesla is addressing all three root causes to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated with the Model 3 launch.”
To head off fears about flagging demand for its current line up of high-end vehicles, Tesla said orders for its Model S were up 45 per cent in the first quarter compared to a year ago, while overall orders “exceeded …deliveries by a wide margin.”
Get alerts on Tesla Inc when a new story is published