Tesla Builds Its Own Tent City

Plenty of room for tents here, I suppose. Tear out a bunch of those useless buildings and you could put up even more.Google Maps

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Because of problems with Tesla’s fully-automated assembly line, CEO Elon Musk has set up a second, completely manual assembly line in a tent pitched on a nearby parking lot. He calls it “pretty sweet,” but not everyone is impressed:

“Words fail me. It’s insanity,” said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.’s Max Warburton, who benchmarked auto-assembly plants around the world before becoming a financial analyst.

….What gives manufacturing experts pause about Tesla’s tent is that it was pitched to shelter an assembly line cobbled together with scraps lying around the bricks-and-mortar plant….“The existing line isn’t functional, it can’t build cars as planned and there isn’t room to get people into work stations to replace the non-functioning robots,” Warburton said in an email. “So here we have it — build cars manually in the parking lot.”

….[Musk] described the new assembly line as “way better” than the one in the plant that cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. That tweet spoke volumes to Dave Sullivan, an analyst at research firm AutoPacific who used to supervise Ford Motor Co. factories. “To say that it’s more efficient to build this with scrap pieces laying around means that either somebody made really bad decisions with the parts in the plant inside, or there are a lot of other problems yet to be discovered with Tesla’s efficiency.”

….“It’s preposterous,” Bernstein’s Warburton said. “I don’t think anyone’s seen anything like this outside of the military trying to service vehicles in a war zone. I pity any customer taking delivery of one of these cars. The quality will be shocking.

Musk is either a genius or a charlatan. As time goes by, there’s a lot less room for any kind of middle ground. But I’ll say this: I sure wouldn’t want to buy a Tesla Model 3. I’ll let Musk’s fanboys be the guinea pigs for this bold, new experiment in building cars less efficiently than Model Ts, thank you very much.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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