Elon Musk said he’s been pulling all-nighters recently, sleeping on a couch in an office at his Tesla factory in Fremont, California. He has good reason.
Since January 2018, the electric car manufacturer has faced news of another fatal crash involving one of its semi-autonomous vehicles, was hit with a downgrade of its credit status on Wall Street, and voluntarily recalled 123,000 Model S cars.
“I’m definitely under stress, so if I seem like I’m not under stress then I’m gonna be clear, I’m definitely under stress,” Musk told CBS’ Gayle King in an interview that took place in the Tesla factory.
It’s not the first time Musk has been vocal about Tesla’s production setbacks. In 2016, he said the company was going through a “production hell” after delays pushed back deliveries of its Model X. Musk used the same term to describe how the company is currently struggling to meet production goals for its Model 3, Tesla’s first mid-priced electric car.
“You started saying, ‘We’ll do 2,500 a week.’ And now it’s a little over 2,000 a week. Does that trouble you?” King asked Musk, who replied, “Yeah. No, that’s true….I need to figure out how to be better….And then we can be better at meeting goals.”
One reason Tesla is lagging behind? Too many robots.
“In some cases, the robots actually slowed the production, right?” King asked.
“Yes, they did,” Musk replied. “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts….And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing,” Musk said, adding that the company would benefit from incorporating more human workers at its factory.
That’s a change of tone from 2016, when Musk said his goal was to automate the Tesla production line to look something like an “alien dreadnought.”
“Our internal code name for the factory, the machine that builds the machine, is the ‘alien dreadnought,’” Musk said during an earnings call with investors. “[When] our factory looks like an alien dreadnought, then we know it’s probably right.”
Still, Tesla seems to be getting back on track despite the recent setbacks, according to Musk.
“We were 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.
Asked if that pace is sustainable, Musk replied: “Yeah, yeah….We’ll probably have, I don’t know, a three or four-fold increase in Model 3 output in the second quarter.”
Of course, skeptics are quick to note that Musk hasn’t always made good on his past promises–at least in a timely fashion. But Musk said they’re too focused on the past:
“The problem that people have, a lot of the analysts, is they kinda look in the rearview mirror instead of looking at the front windscreen…This has very frequently been why people have underestimated Tesla, because they would look at Tesla’s–what Tesla’s done in the past and use that as proxy for what we’re able to do in the future.”
Musk predicted Tesla will be able to produce 5,000 Model S cars per week by the halfway point of 2018.