has again halted production of the Model 3 sedan, days after Chief Executive
said the auto maker’s pace of making 2,000 of the sedans a week is sustainable.
The Silicon Valley company has fallen behind schedule in building its first mass-market car, missing several goals including a milestone of making 2,500 vehicles a week by the end of March. Further delays add more pressure for Tesla to crank up production to avoid squeezing its tight cash situation.
Tesla said Monday it is shutting down Model 3 production for about a week as part of its planned downtime. A spokesman repeated the company’s past statement that shutdowns are “used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates.” BuzzFeed earlier reported on the temporary shutdown.
Shutdowns are normal during so-called preproduction when an auto maker is preparing the factory to make cars at a high rate. But they are unusual once production has officially begun, said
a manufacturing consultant who has worked in the automotive industry for 40 years.
“It’s unheard of in this day and age,” he said.
Tesla has said it shut down production for about a week during the first quarter, helping it “double the weekly Model 3 production rate…by rapidly addressing production and supply chain bottlenecks, including several short factory shutdowns to upgrade equipment.”
The Palo Alto, Calif., company on Monday reiterated it is on track to make about 5,000 a week by around the end of the second quarter. Analysts have said the ability to reach this milestone on a consistent basis is important to generating cash for the money-losing company.
On April 3, the company said it had made 2,020 Model 3 cars in the past seven days, including two in the second quarter, and expected to make 2,000 more in the following seven days.
During an interview with CBS This Morning that aired last Friday, Mr. Musk said he thought Tesla could consistently make 2,000 cars a week as it expands on that rate throughout the quarter. “We’re 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.
Mr. Musk in that interview acknowledged Tesla had relied on too many robots to build the Model 3. Later on Friday, he tweeted that Tesla’s “excessive automation” was a mistake. “To be precise, my mistake,” he wrote. “Humans are underrated. ”
That statement seemed to signal a shift in thinking for Mr. Musk, who has long told investors that Tesla’s approach to automation in the factory would help it compete against traditional auto makers. He has even said automation was key to gaining a market value that would rival
“With Model 3, I think would be roughly comparable with the best high-volume vehicle production lines in the world, better in some respects, a little worse than others, but roughly comparable,” Mr. Musk told analysts in May. “And then with some further iteration, I think it will probably be a little bit better than the next-best automotive production line.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Tesla had begun production in July without having all of the advanced assembly line in place, and that as late as September factory workers were banging out large parts of the Model 3 car by hand.
Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com