Elon Musk needs to stop lecturing everybody about how hard it is for Tesla to build cars
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
- Elon Musk spent over an hour on the Recode/Decode podcast, talking about Tesla.
- He offered what has become a familiar lecture about why Tesla has struggled with its auto-manufacturing supply chain.
- Everybody in the auto industry knows about the supply chain and takes it for granted. Musk, however, seems fixated on it.
I got through the whole thing, hearing all about how painful it was for Musk to work the 100-plus-hour weeks that were required to address the numerous problems with the fraught ramp-up for production of Tesla's Model 3 sedan.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk participated in a lengthy Recode/Decode podcast interview with Kara Swisher this week. In over an hour, he covered a lot of ground. It's worth a listen.
That's certainly true, but it isn't anything new. Swisher didn't press him on this, and I didn't expect her to. She probably doesn't have a detailed understanding of the auto industry, and she doesn't need to. She's a technology journalist. But she could certainly say something like, "Great, sounds like a challenge - but isn't everybody else who makes cars also grappling with this? Or not."She was just the lastest audience for this Muskian lecture. Don't get me wrong; Musk's lectures can be fascinating and important. They have genuine value. But his "Carmaking 101" spiel often gets trotted out for the more seasoned automotive media and for investment-bank analysts who have spent years covering major global automakers that wrestle with supply-chain management every single day.
Musk is telling us something that everybody already knows
Everybody in the car business is aware of this. It's a given. In fact, nobody except Musk ever talks about it. In more than a decade of covering the auto industry, I've enjoyed a few conversations with experts in "lean manufacturing," but supply chain is a background thing, the endless low hum of machine running around the globe.
Why does Musk keep coming back to this?
So why does Musk so frequently revisit this rap?Part of it is because Tesla hasn't always had access to the best suppliers, nor the top teams at supplier. That was simply a consequence of Tesla's scale. The situation has improved.
Should I begrudge Musk his coping mechanism? No. But it's getting a bit old, and what Musk likes to call "production hell" is starting to look like something Tesla is having a hard time either avoiding or learning from. It's actually important that Tesla improve its ability to make cars, so that it can address impressive demand for its vehicles and achieve Musk's objective of accelerating sustainable transportation.So it doesn't entirely matter if the lecture about supply chains is actually misdirection. It's turned into an annoyance at best and a distraction at worst.
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