It's often said that if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. It looks like Tesla CEO Elon Musk has applied that maxim to the production of his company's much-delayed Model 3 sedan.
The , Tesla's hugely hyped bid to bring electric vehicles to the masses, has been subjected to production holdups. The Palo Alto electric car maker has said nearly half a million people have pre-ordered Model 3s, but only a few thousand of the vehicles appear to have been delivered.
According to a new report, Musk has bumped aside senior vice president of engineering Doug Field and taken direct control over Model 3 production.
"Mr. Musk had given Mr. Field several chances to raise output, but the company has repeatedly missed its Model 3 production targets over the past year, including after Mr. Field took over manufacturing," The Information reported Monday, citing unnamed sources said to have been briefed on the matter.
Tesla earlier this year ordered a temporary shutdown of Model 3 manufacturing that Field was overseeing, while the battery-module plant was kept running, the tech website reported.
"The move gave the production side of the company a greater supply of batteries and the chance to show how quickly it could move with them," The Information reported.
But that didn't appear to help much with Model 3 manufacturing, so a few weeks ago Musk authorized removal of conveyor equipment at his firm's Fremont factory, gear that was reportedly adding to the delay in getting car parts to the production line.
"But that shift also failed to help speed up Model 3 production enough to hit the target," according to The Information.
Tesla more or less confirmed the report.
"Model 3 production is the highest priority at Tesla, so Elon is focusing his time there while Doug focuses on vehicle engineering," the company told the website in a statement.
Musk, however, was miffed at the website's publication of the story.
"Can't believe you're even writing about this," Musk griped Monday afternoon in a comment on The Information reporter Amir Efrati's Twitter post linked to the article.
"My job as CEO is to focus on what's most critical, which is currently Model 3 production. Doug, who I regard as one of the world's most talented engineering execs, is focused on vehicle engineering."
Efrati responded with a request for an interview, but Musk was having none of it.
"Uhh, hello, I need to build cars," Musk replied, setting himself up for a zinger from Buzzfeed's Ryan Mac: "then why are you tweeting."
Musk's apparent takeover of Model 3 production comes at a tough time for Tesla. On Friday, it acknowledged that its controversial "Autopilot" driver-assistance system was engaged during a fatal crash on Highway 101 last month. The accident is under federal investigation. And late last month, Tesla recalled 123,000 Model S sedans to fix a power-assisted steering problem related to bolts that may corrode.
Tesla's troubles have led to a 27 percent drop in the value of its stock over the past three weeks, from $346 on March 12 to $252 at close of trading Monday.
Tesla has invested heavily in the Model 3, which starts at $35,000. Currently only premium-priced versions are being produced. Analysts believe the company's fortunes rest on whether it will succeed in bringing the car to the mass market.
© 2018 San Jose Mercury News under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
Image credit: Tesla/Elon Musk Twitter page.
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