Elon Musk: "We were huge idiots"

The CEO of Tesla has given an interview to Bloomberg in which he calls himself (and part of his team) an idiot. 

Tom Randall of Bloomberg interviewed Mr. Musk and got to ask him about the new Tesla Model 3 production line - the Californian carmaker built a new production line in a tent outside their factory. As irreverent as this may sound, it helped Tesla reach the promised 5,000 units of Model 3 per week by the end of June, as Elon Musk had previously promised. 

The differences between the ordinary production line and the new, tent-based production mainly revolve around the automation level employed in the building of the Tesla vehicles. The plan was for the production line to boast a very high level of automation, but as the CEO found out, automation does not always deliver the way it is expected to deliver based on a PowerPoint presentation.    

It was like rush hour traffic at a bunch of stop streets and like no highways or anything. It’s like you just took all the highways away from L.A. or something. It sounds good on PowerPoint and it was terrible in reality.
— Elon Musk, Tesla, CEO - Interviewed by Bloomberg

When Tom Randall asked how a company like Tesla can get automation so wrongly, Elon Musk responded in a disarmingly honest way - "we were huge idiots and didn't know what we were doing. That's why (it happened)." 

The CEO was also asked about the next steps of automation for the Tesla production line, his aggressive Twitter style, and the allegations that Tesla is not treating employees well. His answers can be briefly summarised as follows: 

  • I never attack first, but I should probably stop retaliating once attack, at least as much as I do now. "I will correct it". 
  • You can only move as fast as the slowest thing in the system. What works great in simulation, does not always work great in reality. We are not ready to automate everything but everything will be automated in the future. 
  • Tesla and Ford are the only American carmakers that have not gone bankrupt. You must work hard to achieve this. Come and walk around our headquarters freely and see for yourself if people look unhappy. "Come in and walk around, and I don't mean like a North Korea guided tour". 

Indeed, it seems like Elon Musk feels attacked, which is why he feels the need to fight back. Earlier today, he tweeted a link to a thread from Tesla Motors Club titled "Elon Musk vs. Short sellers". As the pressure on Tesla is increasing, with most major automakers entering the EV game, the question that remains to be answered is: Will Elon Musk's creative head start allow him to maintain his leading edge, or will the problems Tesla seems to run into lead to them taking a backseat in the EV and AV race? 

Photo Credit: Dan Taylor

Andrew Kyprianides