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Tesla Model 3 production briefly suspended for planned update

Roadshow logo Roadshow 3/12/2018 Andrew Krok
a red car on a dirt road: Tesla Model 3 Long Range© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Tesla Model 3 Long Range

Brief pauses in production are not unprecedented in the automotive industry, so a recent four-day halt in Tesla's Model 3 line shouldn't scare the pants off anyone.

Tesla idled production at its Model 3 assembly facility in Fremont, California for four days in February. According to Tesla, which confirmed the downtime, it used this time to "improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates," a Tesla spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."

Improving Model 3 production has been a bit of a sore spot for Elon Musk's EV venture. The automaker had originally planned to produce 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of 2017, but that figure has been pushed back several times, now hoping for the end of June. Tesla itself pointed out "the difficulty of accurately forecasting specific production rates" in its Q4 2017 shareholder letter, and Musk has never been shy about admitting how optimistic his own estimates are.

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Previous reports coming from Fremont have alleged that certain parts of the line, which Musk promised would one day be one of the most automated production lines in the automotive industry, are still being operated by hand. That included battery production from Tesla's Gigafactory 1 facility. However, a spokesman told Autocar that some manual work was to be expected at given stages and it had no bearing on the quality or reliability of certain parts.

There's also the matter of Tesla's suppliers. Moving supplier-sourced parts en masse to Tesla's factory requires a great deal of effort. The automaker is working to smooth out this process, as well, in some weird ways. In its Q4 recap, Musk floated the idea of using The Boring Company's tunnels to more efficiently shuttle goods to its production line, which could remove a big bottleneck.

Nevertheless, the news of improvements in the name of ramping up production should come as good news for the hundreds of thousands of reservation holders who hope to scoop up a Model 3 in the near future. CNET's own Ashley Esqueda is one such reservation holder, and has been for some time. When asked for her opinion, she replied via Slack direct message with several dozen poop emoji and a thumbs down (for real).

If you're interested in keeping track at home, Bloomberg has constructed a Tesla tracker of sorts, aggregating content from multiple sources (social media, reader VIN submissions, VIN submissions to federal regulators) in an effort to track Model 3 production rates on a weekly basis. Tesla tends to keep its updates to its quarterly financial and sales reports. 

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