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Tesla CEO Elon Musk said when its factory looks like an “alien dreadnought,” it will be ready to support mass production of the Model 3, he said during Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday night.
Musk said Tesla is placing increased focus on its factory ahead of Model 3 production. Deliveries of the $35,000 Model 3 are scheduled to begin at the end of 2017, and a year’s worth of Model 3 cars are already sold out. There were over 400,000 pre-orders for the Model 3 in the 10 days after Tesla unveiled the car.
Tesla will have to handle production of its new Model 3 on top of its existing Model S and Model X production.
“Our internal code name for the factory, the machine that builds the machine, is the alien dreadnought,” Musk said on the call. “[When] our factory looks like an alien dreadnought, then we know it’s probably right.”
Musk said with Model 3 production, the factory will be at “alien dreadnought 0.5” in terms of advancements made to the production line. “And then it will take us another year or so, I don’t know, summer 2018, to actually get to alien dreadnought version 1,” Musk said.
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Tesla has experienced severe production issues in the past, most notably with the Model X, which suffered delays that pushed back deliveries to the second half of 2016.
Musk has been vocal about the production issues Tesla suffered in the first half of 2016.
“We were in production hell,” he said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call. “We climbed out of hell in June.”
Musk has gone so far as to sleep in the Fremont, California factory to personally inspect vehicles as they come off the production line.
“My desk is at the end of the production line,” Musk said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call. “I have a sleeping bag in a conference room next to the manufacturing production line that I use quite frequently.”
Tesla’s factory has the capacity to build 500,000 vehicles a year, but currently only produces a fraction of that. Tesla is maintaining its full-year guidance of delivering 80,000 to 90,000 vehicles by the end of this year.
Tesla uses 580 giant robot arms to assemble the Model S and Model X cars. But Musk is focused on automating even more of the manufacturing process as he looks to ramp up production.
In a September interview with Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Musk said he is looking to improve the speed of Tesla’s production line.
“I think we are … in terms of the extra velocity of vehicles on the line, it’s probably about, including both X and S, it’s maybe five centimeters per second. This is very slow,” he said.
Musk then added he was “confident” Tesla can get a twentyfold increase of that speed. But we’ll have to see if Tesla’s “alien dreadnought” improvements pan out.