A Year of Tesla

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is coming to its end, as it surely feels as if it barely started. The end of the year is usually a time of reflection: on tasks we accomplished, on things that happened in our family or in the world surrounding us, on stuff we would have, could have or should have done, on getting older (I certainly am reflecting on the last one!).

The passing year was certainly full of exciting news related to electric vehicles, but the one company that deserves special credit is Tesla. What a ride it has been! In early February, Elon Musk’s personal Roadster had been launched into space with the help of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a nice distraction from the flood of negative press surrounding the Model 3 production ramp up – despite its best efforts Tesla managed to produce less than 10,000 units in the whole first quarter of 2018 and had to adjust its production estimates numerous times to provide at least some answer to both investors and folks eagerly anticipating delivery of their dream car. To say “all hands on deck” would be an understatement, as the company was pulling all strings to boost the production output. In an act of both brilliance and desperation a gigantic “tent” was erected outside of Fremont factory building. All in order to get closer to the promised 5,000 units per week.

Celebrating a production milestone of 5,000 units of Model 3 per week. Photo credit and copyright by Tesla, Inc.

Elon has freely admitted that one of the reasons of the struggle was excessive faith in automation when dealing with tasks that human are just better at, even calling it ironically foolish. It was a hard lesson to learn, but yet another hurdle that Tesla’s team managed to overcome thanks to its dedication and ability to think outside of the box.

In July, Tesla had delivered its 200,000th vehicle, thus triggering a gradual expiration of federal tax credit. It also signed an agreement with China to start manufacturing cars there, essentially laying foundation for the Gigafactory 3 that, once constructed, will definitely ease the burden of keeping up with the demand for Model 3. It will also help to produce future Tesla models.

By August, Tesla Model 3 became the #1 best selling car in United States by revenue. It was also reported that Tesla was crushing its competition in terms of sales.

By then the situation surrounding the Model 3 was much better and Tesla
not only reported a steady increase in production output, but it also reported profit, first in a long time. All this while steadily increasing the battery production rate at the Gigafactory and shortening the time required to assemble the battery packs. It only gets better from there. The Model 3 has been awarded a top safety rating from NHTSA. Tesla later published on its blog that it also achieved lowest probability of injury of any vehicles ever tested by the very same institute.

Towards the end of the third quarter, Tesla has introduced the Mid Range Model 3, priced at $45,000 and being available for delivery within 2-4 weeks from the date of purchase.

Model 3 production numbers per quarter in 2018. Data source: Tesla, Bloomberg. Q4 estimates by Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg’s Tesla Model 3 Tracker, we should see about 60,000 units manufactured in the last quarter, putting it on track to a sustainable 5,000 units per week. In the meantime, Tesla has finally opened up Model 3 ordering for reservation holders in Europe. All that mad dash effort is finally paying off!

Speaking of mad dash, one should not forget about Model 3 Performance with Track Mode. It already proves to be a force to be reckoned with and a competitor deserving a respect.

Despite all the negative press Tesla has received throughout the year (as reported here, here and here), the company keeps proving every skeptic out there wrong, staying on-course to achieve the mission of providing sustainable transport of the future. Such an achievement is only possible with help of extraordinary team of dedicated workers, willing to pull up the sleeves and work additional hours to make things happen. It requires an extraordinary management team as well, able to think outside of the box and apply unconventional methods as needed in order to accomplish the goals. Having a visionary such as Elon Musk at its helm helps too, of course.

As a long-time fan of Tesla and proud owner of one of its vehicles I am happy to witness the realization of the dream – a mass-produced car at affordable price, helping to convert people to electric vehicles, one person at a time. I’m smiling whenever I see another Model 3 on the road. It has been such a long journey for Tesla and everyone working for the company deserves the credit.

Since 2019 is has already started for some and is about to kick off for the rest in just a few hours, here are some of my wishes for Tesla and for everyone:

  • Get past the “production hell”, so Tesla can focus on sustainability of the company rather than constant firefighting. Enough of the stress.
  • Make the base ($35,000) Model 3 a reality. It cannot come soon enough.
  • Show off Model Y and the pickup truck at last – I’ll be hard-torn choosing between the two anyway!
  • Get the Semi on the road. It will change the trucking industry as we know it.

Happy New Year, all!