Day 1 Recap: Plant Tour

11am: We meet up with the Tesla delivery specialists Matt and Tim, and first, get a very personalized factory tour.  A fascinating fact about this ex-NUMMI factory, when Tesla purchased it in 2010, they paid about $42M for over two billion dollars worth of building, equipment and tools just left in place.  Currently only a portion of the factory is in use, with plans to build out the rest for the Model X and next mid-size sedan.  With the parts of the factory they’re now using, they’ve taken significant strides in cleaning things up and creating a well lit workspace for their workers – many of which they’ve re-hired from the NUMMI plant.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures during the walk through, but we got a good feel for the production ramp up that’s going on there.  At some point, I will try to post some factory pictures that do a good job of approximating what the interior looks like from the Model S launch party we attended late last year.  As expected, they’ve filled out the rest of the assembly lines since we visited, but it’s really amazing to see how much they’ve done in less than a year’s time.

Tesla has chosen to manufacturer a large majority of the Model S parts in house, so they’ve got the subsequent stamping presses, metal casting, thermoforming, and assembly tooling set up to produce what they need.  With everything being produced on site, troubleshooting manufacturing problems becomes a much simpler affair; you take a walk to where the part was produced or assembled and fix it on the spot.  No need to call your supplier, hop on a plan and discuss the changes, and then wait to receive the corrected part only to see whether the suggested changes actually worked.  The worst you’ll do in the Tesla factory is have to hop on a bike (there are lots!) and ride to the other side of the factory.

One of the other cool things about the factory is that because the Model S produces no tailpipe emissions, they can have an entire squeak and rattle test track, water testing chamber and dyno facility in the same room as the end of the production line.

Our delivery specialists were very tight lipped about current production volumes and ramp up, so without too much speculation, I’ll say it’s somewhere between full intended volumes of cars (on the high end) and the rate things were going last month (on the low end).  Admittedly, I don’t know the true answer here.

If you have a chance to visit the factory, and take a tour, I highly recommend it.


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