Tesla workers have told CNBC that, in order to meet Elon Musk and Tesla’s delivery quota for the second quarter, that they were subjected to unfathomably harsh conditions and took numerous manufacturing shortcuts.
This “bombshell” should come as no surprise anyone who has followed the Tesla story.
Elon Musk said he was cracking the whip on employees towards the end of June in order to reach the delivery estimate target.
But at least Tesla says that employees have fun:
“We work hard to create a work environment that is as safe, fair and fun as possible, and it is incredibly important to us that employees look forward to coming to work every day,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.
However, Tesla operates its manufacturing business in what is called an “open-air tent factory,” and employees told CNBC that they were forced to work through freezing nighttime temperatures, excessively hot daytime temperatures, and even unhealthy air quality brought on by wildfire smoke.
Not so fun.
Whereas most legitimate automobile manufacturers rely excessively on robots and other automatic means of production to meet delivery estimates, these employees said they themselves had to bypass the robots and put the cars and battery packs together themselves.
This included the use of electrical tape to fix some defects. Great. That should rival being able to trick an autopilot-enabled car with table salt.
The conditions under which the employees are working make for great headlines, but the real concern is what conditions imply about Tesla’s logistics.
Most people never consider the importance of logistics when it comes to the goods and services they use on a daily basis. Yet when one stops and considers the amount of effort and precision that goes in from the order of a vehicle to its eventual delivery, the logistical complexity is mind-boggling.
Established car manufacturers have taken decades to refine and constantly improve their logistics. This is not only necessary for product quality control, but also for worker and consumer safety. A missing bolt here, a defective ring there, and you have a product recall at best or the Challenger explosion at worst.
Tesla has tried to paper over this story by claiming that the employees’ descriptions of the manufacturing process are:
“…misleading and do not reflect our manufacturing practices or what it’s like to work at Tesla.”
It may not be what it’s like to work at Tesla all the time, but given the huge number of senior management departures, and the near-legendary status of Tesla mechanical difficulties, one is forced to wonder who is being more truthful.
The grander point about how Tesla is being run is a referendum on Elon Musk. If these same stories came out of any other legitimate car manufacturer, the entire industry would be in an uproar.
Managers would get fired, senior management would be forced to resign, the stock of that particular company would fall, and government regulators would be all over that company in less time than it takes a BMW to go from 0 to 60.
This isn’t even the first time we’ve heard about worker conditions . It’s been going on for two years.
But because this is Tesla and Elon Musk, everyone seems to turn a blind eye.
Mark my words: If vehicles were delivered in this quarter under the conditions that these employees describe, consumers should worry that they are going to suffer from higher-than-average mechanical and recall problems.