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.