My friend at NYU, Prof. Melissa Schilling, (thanks, Oscar) and I have a running debate about Tesla. She emphasizes how smart and genuinely innovative Musk is. I emphasize how he seems to treat Tesla like another R&D driven company – but it is making a very different product. Melissa is quoted in this article:
Case in point: Tesla sent workers home, with no pay, for the production shutdown last week. My discussion is after the break.
During the pause, workers can choose to use vacation days or stay home without pay. This is the second such temporary shutdown in three months for a vehicle that’s already significantly behind schedule.
The question is “Has Musk learned from his mistakes?” The evidence is that he has not. It’s sad.
Quote from the article: “I have absolute confidence that the Model 3 production problems will be solved and that it will be a successful car,” says Melissa Schilling, ”
I hope you are right. BUT Musk’s great talent seems to have a big blind spot. He is great on innovation for new concepts. But his projects that work seem to be extremely low volume: spaceships, tunnel boring, and many others that I have forgotten. Making 100s of millions of batteries or 100,000 autos is entirely different.
I trust everyone will agree that he was initially completely ignorant about this. He said that Tesla was going to skip an entire stage of moving to full scale production because he and his team were so smart that they did not need it! (Does anyone disagree that in retrospect this was a big mistake?) In fact it’s fair to say that Tesla is still in ramp-up stage for Model 3.
So the question is “has he learned enough to fundamentally change his worldview as a result of Tesla’s manufacturing problems?” 2 years ago I would have bet that he would learn. But he seems to keep making the same mistakes.
For example, sending the hourly workers on a mandatory break for a short period last week is a classic dumb move which the great Japanese car companies would never do! The $ savings must be minor relative to the company’s financial position. But he STILL apparently thinks his hourly workers are interchangeable robots. And this is a relatively minor example of Tesla’s misconceptions.