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Tesla to build Model 3 24/7

Tesla Model 3 – Source: Washington Post

Tesla says it will start building cars around the clock in order to ramp up Model 3 output to 6,000 a week.

An internal company email says the company will boost production to a 24/7 operation by the end of June. 

“As part of the drive toward 6k, all Model 3 production at Fremont will move to 24/7 operations. This means that we will be adding another shift to general assembly, body and paint,” Chief Executive Elon Musk wrote. The email was obtained by the website Electrek.

Tesla will also be adding about 400 people per week for several weeks, Musk wrote. The company had previously said it was targeting 5,000 a week by around the end of the second quarter.

Musk, who has said his automaker will be profitable and cash-flow positive in the third and fourth quarters also outlined cost-saving measures in his email.

“I have asked the Tesla finance team to comb through every expense worldwide, no matter how small, and cut everything that doesn’t have a strong value justification,” he wrote.

“All capital or other expenditures above a million dollars, or where a set of related expenses may accumulate to a million dollars over the next 12 months, should be considered on hold until explicitly approved by me.”

“The reason that the burst-build target rate is 6,000 and not 5,000 per week in June is that we cannot have a number with no margin for error across thousands of internally and externally produced parts and processes,” Musk said. He noted the carmaker produced 2,250 of the mission-critical sedans last week.

Musk said that going forward, workers should walk out of meetings or drop off of a call “as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value” and avoid using “acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla” to boost their productivity.

“We are burning the midnight oil to burn the midnight oil,” he added.

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Drivers struggle to stay engaged

The difficulty of keeping drivers in automated vehicles engaged is a growing safety concern that has spurred several car companies, including General Motors (GM) and Subaru, to position infrared cameras in the cockpit trained on the driver to track head and eye movement.

However, U.S. safety investigators have called on carmakers to do more to ensure drivers stay engaged when using an autonomous vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened three investigations, two of which involve Tesla vehicles, that call into question the progress that’s been made in guarding against motorist misuse of autonomous/semi-autonomous driving technology.

Tesla has lagged behind automakers in embracing driver monitoring. While the electric carmaker still relies on technology that federal investigators said was too easy to sidestep, it’s now working on unspecified improvements to its vehicles, according to the NTSB.

“They have indicated that they have already made some improvements and are working on additional improvements,” agency spokesman Peter Knudson said to Bloomberg, in the first indication that the company is contemplating more changes to its driver-assistance system. NTSB highway investigators have been in contact with Tesla technical staff, he added.

Driver-monitoring technology is needed for any vehicle that needs humans to handle part of the driving task, said Bryan Reimer to Bloomberg News, who studies driver behaviour at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This includes conventional vehicles without driver-assist systems, cars that guide themselves for some periods without human inputs, such as cruise control, and self-driving cars with people serving as safety monitors.

Motorists today are bombarded by distractions, from mobile phones to in-dash navigation systems, Reimer added. “Drivers need help making better decisions.”

The NTSB is investigating two crashes this year in which Tesla drivers were using Autopilot. The system can automate steering and follow traffic in some conditions, but the company warns drivers they must monitor it at all times. The system isn’t designed to be fully autonomous and can’t detect some objects in its path, according to Tesla. 

In the most recent case, a Model X slammed into a concrete highway barrier on March 23 in Mountain View, California, killing the driver Walter Huang. His family has hired Minami Tamaki LLP to explore legal options, the firm said Wednesday in a statement.

Tesla said in a blog post last month that Huang, 38, didn’t have his hands on the wheel for six seconds prior to striking the barrier where lanes split on the freeway.

“The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive,” the company said in the March 30 blog post.

“What Tesla has is basically a sensor that just detects whether your hands are on the wheel,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst at researcher Gartner Inc. “If it doesn’t detect anything on the wheel for a certain amount of time, it first gives a visual warning, then an audible warning, then the car starts slowing down. It’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 seconds or longer. At 70 miles per hour, that’s a long time — a lot can happen in that period of time.”

Tesla has installed an inward-facing camera above the rear-view mirror in its new Model 3 sedan, but hasn’t confirmed whether it could be used to monitor drivers.

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Tesla reveals production date for Model Y

Tesla has announced that November 2019 will be the start of production for its Model Y sport utility vehicle, with production in China to begin two years later.

Two sources told Reuters this week that Elon Musk is currently accepting preliminary bids for supplier contracts on the Model Y, a compact crossover companion to the Model 3 sedan.

Tesla has given suppliers limited details about the program and had not provided a production time frame, but has signalled that the vehicle would begin to be built at its Fremont, California, plant in 2019, the two sources said.

This shows that even though Tesla is struggling to produce the Model 3, which was launched in July, Tesla is pushing ahead on plans to build a new vehicle.

Despite attracting about 500,000 advance orders in the form of refundable deposits, the sedan’s launch has been overrun with delays and factory bottlenecks.

Competitive bidding is an important step in the process of automotive manufacturing. After the automaker discloses its plans, suppliers compete based on factors including cost and technology.

With a new car model, automakers normally choose parts suppliers two to two-and-a-half years before the start of production, said the sources. At about one-and-a-half years away, a November 2019 start date for the Model Y would be considered “aggressive, but possible.”

Tesla is known for its aggressive timelines and high risk-tolerance in order to get cars to market quicker.

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Tesla tops electric chart

The Tesla Model S

Tesla continues to lead sales of pure electric vehicles (EVs), according to statistics for the first quarter of 2018. The Model S notched up 44 registrations and the Model X came third with 37 with Hyundai’s Ioniq sandwiched between them on 39.

By comparison, in the first three months of 2017 Model S sales came in at 32 and 10 Model Xs were registered.

During the whole of last year, the Models S and Model X racked up 128 and 116 sales respectively, according to Motor Industry Association statistics. These figures made Tesla New Zealand’s top-selling brand in the pure EV class in which 546 units were registered overall.

Sales of cars other than those powered by petrol or diesel are still led by plug-in hybrids. They accounted for the bulk of 797 registrations in the “other” category for the first quarter of 2017.

Toyota dominates this segment with three of its hybrids – the Corolla with 195 sales, the Camry on 103 and the Prius C with 88 – commanding a market share of 57 per cent.

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China threatens new EV tariffs

China has recently announced that electric vehicles (EVs) will be included among American products that will incur additional tariffs, a huge setback for EV manufacturers. 

Tesla Inc. is at particular risk. The car maker relies on US-built vehicles for all its Chinese sales, whereas US carmakers General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. manufacture in China and import few vehicles into the world’s largest market. 

China is Tesla’s biggest market after the US, and an additional tariff would hand local EV manufacturers a huge pricing advantage. 

“The jump in tax levy hurts Tesla the most as it had not yet started local production in China,” said Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of China’s Passenger Car Association to Bloomberg News. “For GM and Ford, they can always make up with China-produced ones.”

The U.S. carmaker is already hindered by China’s current 25 per cent import tax that hikes the prices of Model S sedans and Model X, relegating Tesla into a niche marque only afforded by the seriously wealthy.

China’s import taxes have contributed to other carmakers’ decisions to produce in China under joint-venture agreements. Volkswagen AG makes most of the vehicles it sells in the country at local plants, and about two-thirds of BMW and Daimler sales come from domestic factories.

 Proposed factory
Tesla said it was working with Shanghai’s government to explore assembling cars, an agreement hasn’t been clinched due to the two sides disagreeing on the business structure for a proposed factory.

Tesla’s reluctance in investing in local manufacturing means losing out on a chance to capitalise on China’s hard sell for new-energy vehicles (NEVs), such as all or hybrid EVs.

In the US, Tesla accounted for the majority of the 104,471 battery-powered cars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. However in China, Tesla sold a mere 14,883 vehicles, accounting for just 3 per cent of the nation’s battery-powered EV sales of 449,431 units.

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Driver killed in Tesla crash

A driver has died after his Tesla Model X crashed in California on Friday morning, and concerns about its exposed battery contributed to more than six hours of lane closures, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The accident was reported when the 2017 Tesla, traveling at freeway speed, collided with a median barrier. 

Soon after the crash, the vehicle caught on fire, and then an approaching Mazda and Audi hit the Tesla.

The Tesla driver was removed from the car and taken to hospital with major injuries, and was pronounced dead Friday afternoon, Officer Art Montiel said. 

Road crews were prevented from immediately clearing the wreck from the roadway because explosion concerns after the car’s sizeable battery was exposed by the crash.

Engineers from Tesla were sent to evaluate the battery, and after about an hour they deemed the car safe to transport, Montiel said.

The semiautonomous Autopilot feature had also been turned on before the crash raising more questions about the safety of the company’s self-driving technology.

The company said in a statement posted on its website that the driver in the crash last week had “about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view” before he crashed into a median barrier, adding that “the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”

The driver had been given “several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive,” Tesla said.

Still, Tesla defended its Autopilot hardware. In its statement, the company said there was one automotive fatality for every 138 million kilometres across all vehicles in the United States, compared with one fatality for every 515 million kilometres in vehicles equipped with Autopilot.

“If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident,” the company said.

The crash occurred five days after a fatality which involved the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology.




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Tesla to train a new generation of EV technicians

Tesla has launched a new automotive training program with colleges called ‘Tesla START’ to train a new generation of electric car technicians.

Prior to the new program, Tesla had mainly been recruiting technicians who have been working for other automakers or coming out of training programs where they mainly worked on internal combustion engines.

Of course, electric cars have several components in common with gas-powered cars, but the powertrains are entirely different and it requires a significant amount of training to service them even for an experienced auto technician.

Tesla has been conducting that training internally for all its service technicians across over 100 service centres around the world. Now the automaker is partnering with colleges to offer the training to students before starting to work at Tesla.

The 12-week long training program is already underway at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the first class fo 13 students are going to graduate next week, and at Rio Hondo College in Whitter, California.

After the program, Tesla helps place graduates at service locations across North America.

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Musk removes Tesla, SpaceX pages

Tesla’s and SpaceX’s verified Facebook pages disappeared on Friday, after founder Elon Musk promised on Twitter to take down the pages when challenged by a Twitter user.

“Delete SpaceX page on Facebook if you’re the man?” a user tweeted to Musk. His response: “I didn’t realise there was one. Will do.”

Each Facebook page had more than 2.6 million followers.

Musk had begun the exchange by responding to a tweet from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton of the #deletefacebook tag.

US lawmakers have formally asked Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to explain at a hearing how 50 million users’ data got into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The world’s largest social media network is currently under huge pressure from governments and investors due to allegations that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users’ information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

“The hearing will examine the harvesting and sale of personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users, potentially without their notice or consent and in violation of Facebook policy,” chairman Representative Greg Walden, a Republican who chairs the panel, and Frank Pallone, the top Democrat, and other committee leaders wrote in the letter.

Zuckerberg apologised on Wednesday for the mistakes his company made and promised to restrict developers’ access to user information as part of a plan to protect privacy.

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Tesla’s parts struggle

Tesla Model 3 – Source: Washington Post

Several current and former Tesla employees say the electric vehicle (EV) car manufacturer is building a high ratio of flawed parts and vehicles that need rework and repairs.

According to sources, Tesla has had to ship some flawed parts to remanufacturing facilities to avoid scrapping them, rather than fixing them in-line, however Tesla is denying the claim.

A current Tesla engineer told CNBC news that around 40 per cent of the parts made or received at its Fremont factory require rework. The need for reviews of parts coming off the line, and rework, has contributed to Model 3 delays, the engineer said.

To deal with a build-up of flawed parts and vehicles, Tesla has brought in teams of technicians and engineers from its service centres and remanufacturing lines to help with rework and repairs on site in Fremont, according to the sources.

Tesla flatly denies that its remanufacturing teams engage in rework. “Our remanufacturing team does not ‘rework’ cars,” a spokesperson said. The company said the employees might be conflating rework and remanufacturing. It also said every vehicle is subjected to rigorous quality control involving more than 500 inspections and tests.

CEO Elon Musk has been under serious pressure to increase production of the Model 3 sedan, Tesla’s first mass-market EV. More than 400,000 customers have reserved the EV, paying US$1,000 refundable fees to do so.

Originally Musk said that Tesla would be making around 20,000 Model 3s per month by December. The company then later downgraded those expectations – Tesla is currently making around 2,500 Model 3s per week.

Tesla has acknowledged problems with production of batteries, but said it is still on track to meet its target of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of March, and 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of the second quarter.


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Musk struggles to finalise deal in China

Without a local partner, every Tesla sold in the world’s biggest EV market faces a steep import tax

Tesla Inc., the top-selling electric auto manufacturer in the U.S., is in danger of being relegated to a niche market of luxury cars in China as CEO Elon Musk is struggling to finalise a deal to open a factory there.

More than several months after Tesla said it was working with Shanghai’s government to explore assembling cars, an agreement hasn’t been clinched due to the two sides disagreeing on the business structure for a proposed factory, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

At present, all foreign automakers must partner with Chinese companies in order to manufacture locally, however Tesla wants to own the factory completely, the sources close to the situation said.

Tesla’s reluctance in investing in local manufacturing means losing out on a chance to capitalise on China’s hard sell for new-energy vehicles (NEVs), such as all or hybrid electric vehicles (EVs).

President Xi Jinping’s administration wants to scrub notorious air pollution and reduce dependence on imported oil, and it’s doling out billions of dollars in subsidies to entice consumers away from gas guzzlers.

“It’s a market they need to get a foothold in,” said Jeffrey Osborne, a New York-based analyst for Cowen & Co.

Tesla currently sells cars in China, but an import tax of 25 per cent launches the price beyond the means of most consumers.

A Tesla Model X made in the U.S. and shipped to China costs about 835,000 yuan, or around NZ$178,500, meaning cheaper models, from domestic rivals such as BAIC Motor Corp., Warren Buffett-backed BYD Co. and startups NIO and Byton, are more appealing to consumers. 

In the U.S., Tesla accounted for the majority of the 104,471 battery-powered cars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. However in China, Tesla sold a mere 14,883 vehicles, accounting for just 3 per cent of the nation’s battery-powered EV sales of 449,431 units.

Tesla ranked 10th behind leader BAIC’s affiliate, Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., which sold 102,341 cars, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. 

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‘Europe’s largest battery factory’ approved

Factory sketch – Northvolt Media

Northvolt, a company founded by two former Tesla executives who broke out on their own to build a battery factory in Europe, seems to be in full motion.

On Monday, Northvolt secured a NZ$89.1 million loan from the European Union’s investment bank to build a demonstration battery line for its own battery factory.

“The EIB’s board of directors last Tuesday approved €52.5 million in financing alongside the Swedish government for the Northvolt battery production project,” said EIB Vice President Andrew McDowell.

It’s the first step towards building the largest lithium-ion battery factory in Europe.

Peter Carlsson – Northvolt CEO

Ambroise Fayolle, vice-president of the EIB, commented: “The Bank is fulfilling one of its main purposes by supporting this type of research and development in Europe. With the growing momentum of clean energy and electric mobility, batteries will become ever more important. Europe is currently lagging behind when it comes to battery manufacturing and this highly innovative and strategic project deserves European backing to fill that gap.”

“Europe is moving rapidly towards electrification,” says Peter Carlsson, CEO of Northvolt.

“Northvolt’s objective is to build the world’s greenest battery to enable the transition. With the support from the European Investment Bank and the European Union, we are now one step closer to establishing a competitive European battery manufacturing value chain.”

The high costs of batteries means electric cars are still only a niche product, but regulatory action to reduce emissions combined with incentives to make electric cars more affordable has spurred significant investment.

Once the factory is completed, it will be Europe’s largest battery factory and produce 32 GWh worth of battery capacity annually.


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