I finally got a chance to get down to Fremont (drove my Roadster, for fun!) for a factory tour, 8 months after taking possession of our car in BC, Canada. I brought a local friend along, who is a shareholder and aspiring car owner. Always fun to get another friend mesmerized by TeslaWorld.
So here are some observations from the visit:
1) The SuperCharger at the Customer Delivery Center was open and operating, and not yet saturated. There are four stations.
2) The factory was operating mostly at speed, but it is interesting to see and appreciate how the whole line is broken up into sections, with considerable inventory/ buffering in-between. So, if one section is down for calibration/re-tooling, etc., the others keep chunking away, building their inventories of parts or assemblies, or partial cars. For example, while we were there, the main body assembly robot line was down ( ), but there were still plenty of bodies-in-white in evidence, and painted bodies were continuously being delivered from the paint shop to the final assembly line.
3) I got to see the mechanical structure of the battery casing and its buss bars for the first time. I will not describe them, as I have no interest in helping out GM's Tesla research team. I will say the engineering is very impressive! A Tesla employee told me about a recent accident where a Model S landed on a concrete traffic barrier with the full force of impact taken by the middle of the battery. The battery not only did not react badly, but in fact was still powering the car! I now can see how that is possible.
4) It seemed a LOT of the production on the floor was EU Signatures. There were MANY Sig Red cars in evidence, and there were holding areas with finished cars explicitly marked for export to Tilburg, Zürich, and Drammen.
5) We got to stroll right through the final assembly area, and watch the interiors and drivetrains installed up close and in detail. The focus and craftsmanship of the workers was evident. The polish and attention to detail was comparable to the only other auto line I have seen in person, which is the Ferrari factory in Maranello. 'Nuf said!
6) Our host stated confidently that they are at a continuous rate of 100/cars a day, 500/cars a week using two shifts and a 5-day workweek. He also stated clearly that the factory had "already produced between 15K and 16K cars this year", so achieving and likely exceeding the 2013 goal was in the bag. Investors, take note.
7) Perhaps I am starting an unfounded rumor, but our host indicates he had seen a Model X "beta" in the factory late one recent night. It might have been just the design prototype myself and others have seen, but it also possible they are quietly starting to product alphas, or functional engineering prototypes. If really so, I am sure we will hear and see more before too long.
Always great to be around the Mother Lode. I hope to get back with my wife in September, and it will be interesting to get another data point, if that happens.