Tesla Teardown Reveals a Major Challenge for Elon Musk

Tesla’s Model 3 might not be ready for its close-up.

Engineering experts at Munro & Associates, a Detroit-based automobile consulting company, put the electric car under the microscope and found some glaring mechanical shortcomings.

After tearing down a 2017 Model 3 in February, its examination indicated that Elon Musk’s company may be at the cutting edge of battery technology, but its vehicle assembly could use some improvement.

Munro & Associates chief executive Sandy Munro announced the teardown’s findings at the Automotive Press Association on Wednesday, April 25. He was blown away by the Model 3’s battery design and incorporation of electronics, but he noted that the vehicle’s skeleton showed signs of careless manufacturing practices and the use of unnecessary materials that increased the vehicle’s cost.

“They have a hard time with what I would classify as the dinosaur technologies, the mechanical stuff,” Munro said.

Tesla recently had to shut down production of its Model 3 due to automation trouble, which could have been responsible for some of these flaws. Since the production of this specific car, the automaker has retrofitted its flagship factory in Fremont, California, with upgrades to its machinery, which should enable a faster rate of production and improve quality.

Tesla's automated factory robots installing the chairs in a Model 3.


“We are shocked by the advanced integration and advanced manufacturing techniques. This is the brilliance of the Tesla Model 3,” Munro said about the car’s electronic control center. Yet Tesla’s robotic welders seemed to have joined the car’s frame together sloppily, resulting in poorly fitting body panels. “Mechanically, I don’t have much good to say” about the car, he told the auto-industry podcast Autoline After Hours. “If it would have come out even decent, they’d have mopped the floor with everybody. But they didn’t.”

In an email to The Seattle Times, a Tesla spokesperson stated that the company has been “refining its Model 3 manufacturing process” since 2017. This involved improvements in the car’s trunk, rear lamps, and rear quarter panel. The issues pointed out by Munro could cause squeaks, rattles, or more critical problems, which these factory improvements could rectify.

Tesla's robotic welders joining multiple sections of the Model 3's frame together.


Tesla is trying to bring green-powered cars into the mainstream by pricing the Model 3 in the range of other sedans on the market. The vehicle starts at $35,000 before federal tax and any state credit, but to maintain cost and quality, Tesla needs to further refine its automation process. Musk has said this will lead to much faster production in the long term, but it’s been bedeviling his company in the short term.

In mid-April, Musk was candid about the “production hell” the company was experiencing. Now it’s time to see if the automaker can meet its lofty goal of 5,000 vehicles per week while meeting a quality benchmark, too.

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