The company said in a statement that the pause in Model 3 production was planned and “not unusual.” The downtime will be used to “improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates,” Tesla said. The statement used the same language during the halt in production earlier this year. Tesla did not say how long the suspension, which was first reported by BuzzFeed, would last.
While production hitches are not unheard of, planned delays are not common, said Akshay Anand, an executive analyst with Kelley Blue Book. Nonetheless, he was not surprised by the suspension. “This is Tesla’s first go-around of really mass-producing something. This is not the Model S or the Model X that’s only accessible to the elite. And when you have something that’s mass-marketed, it’s a different ballgame.”
Analysts say that smooth Model 3 production can help the company stem its money-losing operations. Tesla reported net losses of more than $770 million in the last three months of last year, up from $219 million during the same time in 2016. “While further delays would not necessarily ‘make or break’ Tesla, they will invariably exacerbate cash burn,” Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Bernstein, said in a research note Tuesday. He added that if Tesla does deliver on the Model 3, however, the company could still thrive because of the rapid growth of the electric vehicle market and the lack of competition at the Model 3’s price.
Tesla has said it expects Model 3 production to escalate quickly, despite prior delays. Earlier this month the company said it aims to produce 5,000 vehicles per week. That would require the company to more than double its current rate.
Musk has blamed production delays, in part, on an overreliance on automation. He said customers of the Model 3 will receive their vehicles, but not as early as they had planned. “There shouldn’t be a question mark as to whether somebody’s going to get their car,” Musk told “CBS This Morning” in an interview last week. “It’s a six-to-nine-month time shift — that’s literally it — and three of those months have already passed.”
Tesla has received more than 400,000 reservations from customers for the Model 3, according to reports, which requires a $1,000 deposit. The cheapest version of the car will cost $35,000 and will begin to ship in late 2018, the company said.