Tesla will reportedly fall short of its 2,500-per-week target for production of the crucial Model 3 sedan when it reports its numbers this week, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter a report ithat he has personally taken direct control of the production effort.
The website The Information (subscription required) reported that Musk had "pushed aside" Doug Field, Tesla's VP of engineering, but Musk objected to reporter Amir Efrati, "Can't believe you're even writing about this. My job as CEO is to focus on what's most critical, which is currently Model 3 production. Doug, who I regard as one of the world's most talented engineering execs, is focused on vehicle engineering."
He continued: "About a year ago, I asked Doug to manage both engineering & production. He agreed that Tesla needed (those areas to be) better aligned, so we don't design cars that are crazy hard to build. Right now, tho, better to divide & conquer, so I'm back to sleeping at factory. Car biz is hell ..."
Musk told employees in a company-wide email on Monday that Tesla had just passed a rate of 2,000 per week, according to a report by Jalopnik. That was still a big increase from earlier production numbers, and Tesla shares recovered some of Monday's heavy losses in reaction to the report. Some analysts had speculated that if the news wasn't outright terrible, Tesla might benefit from lowered expectations.
It also sounded, though, like Musk was extrapolating from a daily rate and production had yet to achieve a sustained 2,000 over seven days. He's quoted by Jalopnik as saying in the email, "If things go as planned today, we will comfortably exceed that number over a seven day period!"
Bloomberg has been tracking Model 3 production and places output at 1,200 per week.
It has been a tough couple of weeks for Tesla. The company is dealing with another headline-grabbing accident, a fatal crash involving one of its Model X crossovers. Tesla reported that the Autopilot self-drive system was activated only moments before the car's fiery crash into a highway barrier, and it drew the ire of the feds for revealing details during an ongoing investigation.
Tesla also announced the recall of approximately 123,000 Model S sedans, concerning the potential for corroded bolts in the power steering system.
Last week's biggest grabber headline of all: Ratings agency Moody's downgraded Tesla and said the company needs to raise another $2 billion to offset its high rate of cash burn.
And though Musk might not force Tesla into bankruptcy with one dumb, poorly timed tweet, he didn't do it any favors during a particularly rough patch when he sent an April Fool's tweet saying that Tesla Motors was going bankrupt. Not everyone was laughing, however, when Tesla stock slumped Monday during Wall Street trading by approximately 6 percent.
Some observers, including The Los Angeles Times, saw cause and effect there, but the reality is Tesla's stock had been dropping since before the tweet (it fell 12 percent last week and is down 19 percent for the year). Investors are plenty nervous that production of the Model 3 sedan, the highly-anticipated volume model starting at $35,000, was still moving at a glacial pace.
If the Musk memo is for real and the rate of production is below target, it sounds like there is still work to be done.
Elon Musk's comedic timing can definitely use some work, too.