Elon Musk Production Hell photo


If Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (SpaceX and Neuralink) looked a bit bedraggled during his recent CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King, it’s only because his “production hell” problems literally are Keeping Him Up Nights, as he sleeps at the Fremont, CA, plant, overseeing production of the Model 3. Yet, as a very public example to other Tech CEOs, Elon is exhibiting a key attribute of Leadership: admitting his mistake – in this case, over-relying on automation to meet his Model 3 production targets, and putting “too much new technology into the Model 3 all at once.” And, as he’s demonstrated in the past, he’s adapting, by putting the changes in place to “have a clear understanding of the path out of hell,” including getting rid of the “crazy, complex network of conveyor belts” used in their factory.

Elon Musk said Tesla is going to deliver all the Model 3 cars people have ordered, if six to nine months behind schedule.

Frankly, I’ve had a personal stake in Tesla’s Model 3 production delays since first reserving one in the early hours of March 31, 2016 (the first date for pre-orders). By day’s end, I was somewhere in line with 180,000 other anxious Tesla fans; six weeks later, there were 373,000 of us, now over 400,000. Then the wait began for deliveries originally expected between November ’17-January ’18.

Although we knew there was a pecking order (Tesla employees would be first to get their cars, then pre-existing Tesla owners), it wasn’t until meeting a SpaceX engineer Supercharging his Model 3 in Quartzsite, AZ, in late December, that we learned that all of Elon Musk’s employees had priority, and those that bought the “premium upgrade package” were at the head of even that line. We were first notified we could “configure” our Model 3 in January – if we wanted the long-range battery (310 miles vs. 220 miles for the “standard” version), a $9,000 upgrade. Originally, I decided to pass on that option – even though we were “warned” that “standard” vehicles wouldn’t be available until sometime later this year, probably six months later we estimated. It was only after two “near fuel death” experiences – nearly running out of natural gas in my Honda Civic, in early February, that I capitulated, and ordered the “fully loaded” Model 3 which would be available much sooner. So, on March 23rd – one week shy of two years after reserving it – I picked up my Model 3 – which I love.

All that sophisticated factory technology really works to create a fabulous car – just not enough of them fast enough. Also, since the car is really a large computer on wheels, I’ve already had three system updates downloaded (while charging in the garage) in the past month – including an update to the Autopilot system, which over and over again stressed, you must agree to NOT take your hands off the wheel, and that it won’t be truly Auto-Pilot until “hundreds of millions of miles” have been driven with this beta version.

I’ve read that one of Elon Musk’s greatest influencers is Albert Einstein. So it’s no surprise that he also lives by the great physicist’s quote, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

by Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Technology and Healthcare Companies