It’s no secret that Tesla had a rather aggressive manufacturing plan for its mass-market Model 3 vehicle. The company had promised to produce 5000 units per week by the end of 2017. But it encountered multiple manufacturing issues and had to build cars under a makeshift tent to meet its output goal. It somehow managed to achieve that goal in July this year. Leaked documents obtained by Business Insider suggest the EV maker had an incredibly aggressive Model Y production plan, but Tesla has changed it now.
Was the Tesla Model Y production plan realistic?
Business Insider got its hands on documents Tesla had sent out to its employees right before its October earnings call, where Elon Musk told investors that he had approved the Model Y prototype for production. Musk added at the time that he was targeting 2020 for Model Y production.
According to the leaked documents, the company had planned to produce 7,000 Model Y SUVs per week at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada by December 2020. Pilot production was set to begin at the site by June 1, 2020. Tesla also aimed to output 5,000 Model Y units a week at its upcoming China Gigafactory by February 2021. The China factory was supposed to start production in small numbers by early October 2020.
The documents also revealed that the Model Y would be an electric crossover based on the Model 3 platform. It means Tesla will have to make only small changes to the Model 3 production line to make the new vehicle. The Model Y will have an IP Riser, a central console riser, and a third row of seats in the back. Tesla hadn’t mentioned the third row of seats earlier, but it’s possible given the Model Y will have a higher frame and it will be bigger than Model 3.
A Tesla spokesperson responded by saying that the timelines and some of the details were no longer accurate. Notably, the EV maker didn’t dispute the validity of the documents. It means the company had indeed set aggressive Model Y production goals at some point. Tesla may have changed its plans as it wouldn’t want to repeat the mistakes it made with the Model 3. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI was investigating whether Tesla “misstated” its Model 3 production capabilities and misled investors in 2017.
Tesla could unveil Model Y in March next year
Elon Musk has said earlier that Tesla aimed to start production in 2020. Musk has also dropped indications that the Model Y could be unveiled in March 2019. Tesla’s regulatory filings in China showed that the company planned to make two vehicles at the China Gigafactory. One of them is the Model 3 while the other one could be Model Y. The China factory would fulfill the demands of the local market and export vehicles to neighboring countries.
The company cannot produce Model Y at the Fremont facility because it is “jammed to the grills” for Model 3 production. Tesla had set up a new production line under huge tents in the parking lot of the Fremont factory for Model 3. So, the Model Y has to be produced at the Gigafactory in Nevada or at another site.
In an interview with Axios, Elon Musk said Tesla was just “single digit weeks” away from bankruptcy earlier this year when it was ramping up the Model 3 output. “Essentially the company was bleeding money like crazy and if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period of time we would die,” he said.
It’s unclear how Tesla has changed the Model Y production schedule. But there is no denying that achieving the output described in leaked documents would have posed incredible challenges. Executing the new car launches usually take 3-5 years. Tesla could shorten it by a little but reducing it by roughly half would be difficult even for Elon Musk.