Currently reading: Elon Musk blames production ramp-up for Tesla quality issues
Tesla CEO outlines steps taken to tackle well-documented variations in EV manufacturer's build quality
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2 mins read
4 February 2021

Tesla boss Elon Musk has warned customers against buying one of his firm's cars when it's in the early stages of production, because it may be more prone to quality control issues.    

Speaking candidly to vehicle engineering consultant Sandy Munro (below), who made headlines in 2018 when he criticised Tesla's build quality, Musk said: "When people ask me: 'when should I buy a Tesla?', I say you should either buy it right at the beginning or when production reaches a steady state.

"During that production ramp-up, it's super-hard to be in vertical climb mode and get everything right on all the little details. So if you really want things to be dialled, it's either very early cars or once production has levelled off. That's when things are going to be best."

Tesla's public image has been plagued by build-quality issues in recent years, with customers using social media and other public forums to flag issues including varying widths of panel gaps and water ingress.

Musk has addressed some of the concerns, explaining that speeding up production to meet demand highlights emerging issues: "We did improve our gap and paint quality towards the end of last year - even during the course of December. We were able to focus on it and improve it to a great deal."

He said that one particular issue was paint not being given enough time to dry when the line was operating quickly, meaning cars built in these periods were more prone to have issues. Munro noted that his own 2021 Tesla Model 3 had an inferior paint finish to a similar-age example. 

"Production is hell. Of any American start-up car company, I think Tesla is the first to achieve volume production in 100 years, basically," Musk said. 

"So prototypes are, relatively speaking, easy and fun, but reaching volume production with reliable parts and at an affordable price is excruciatingly difficult."

Tesla set itself a target of producing 500,000 cars last year, of which it fell short by just 450 units. The firm made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic earlier this week when it issued a recall notice for more than 130,000 Model X and Model S cars after it was found that an electrical component failure could lead to the loss of several key functions.

Now that production of the new Model Y crossover is ramping up in the US, focus will shift to launching the delayed Semi lorry and Roadster sports car, as well as a production version of the radical Cybertruck pick-up.

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Harry P 5 February 2021

I would not recommend buying any car in its first six months from launch, as all manufacturers go through a learning curve as a new product enters production. I hope that Tesla now have to grips with the many reported issues with the early model 3’s. However, it is still too early to know how the long term reliability will work out. I briefly considered a Tesla 3 before choosing an I-Pace, for me it was an easy decision, the bland minimalist interior of the 3 had no appeal at all. The i-Pace interior appealed far more and having had JLR products previously, which had all been reliable and the uncertainty of the Tesla only made the decision easier.

Peter Cavellini 5 February 2021

A kind of worrying statement to say to prospective buyers, don't buy one just now because the fit and finish is a bit shit due to the ramping up of production?!, what MD goes on record saying things like that?

sabre 5 February 2021
Peter Cavellini wrote:

A kind of worrying statement to say to prospective buyers, don't buy one just now because the fit and finish is a bit shit due to the ramping up of production?!, what MD goes on record saying things like that?

An honest MD/CEO, for a change

Christian Galea 9 February 2021
sabre wrote:

Peter Cavellini wrote:

A kind of worrying statement to say to prospective buyers, don't buy one just now because the fit and finish is a bit shit due to the ramping up of production?!, what MD goes on record saying things like that?

An honest MD/CEO, for a change

Or one running a company whose quality problems are so serious that they cannot be denied, even by the top man himself

FRI2 4 February 2021

All Teslas that I have driven are well made and handles incredibly. I just don't understand this constant drivel about bad this and bad that. If this is the case, why are Tesla sales going through the roof and its resale value one of the best in the world? Autocar needs to do their research and stop pandering to the VW group.

Christian Galea 9 February 2021
FRI2 wrote:

All Teslas that I have driven are well made and handles incredibly. I just don't understand this constant drivel about bad this and bad that. If this is the case, why are Tesla sales going through the roof and its resale value one of the best in the world? Autocar needs to do their research and stop pandering to the VW group.

This is an article merely reporting what the head of the company said, i.e. admission of poor quality; nothing to do with bias. It's fanboys with 'blinkers' (like a few on these forums) that constantly deny even cold hard facts and the need by people to show off are perhaps the two biggest reasons why Teslas sales are strong and why it's valued so highly on the stock market. Whilst it's true that the first few months of production of any car are full of teething issues (and I for one would try to avoid them), they're not usually as serious as what we've been seeing from Tesla (case in point - sub-par quality in the much lauded China factory causing Tesla batteries to spontaneously combust (and then blaming it on customers) and unintended acceleration) - particularly when the excuse is simply "the quality issues that owners will have to deal with for the whole life of the vehicle in the coming years are due to the fact that we've been trying to increase the number of cars built to improve our profits and finally hit a promised target so that we can raise the stock market price even higher and get more free publicity"