The man charged with leading Tesla Motors into mass production says acquiring the NUMMI auto plant will make his job a lot easier. But he still intends to do things Tesla's way -- not Toyota's.
"The Toyota production system is a very good base," Gilbert Passin, Tesla's vice president of manufacturing, told Automotive News. "But also we're trying to innovate and see how we can make this factory superior. We will make it greener, make it safer and cleaner, and use other best practices to make it a better factory."
In May, Tesla acquired New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, Calif., from Toyota Motor Corp. as part of a new partnership between the two companies.
Passin's words are all the more striking considering that he is a former NUMMI manager, recruited in February to turn Tesla from a maker of low-volume $110,000 electric sports cars into a producer of electric family sedans. He also was previously a manufacturing manager at Toyota's assembly subsidiary in Cambridge, Ontario, the only factory outside of Japan that builds Lexus vehicles.
But rather than simply slip into Toyota's practices at NUMMI, Passin wants Tesla to develop new practices and systems.
"Getting NUMMI resolved a lot of issues we had about our factory," he said. But his startup team of 20 managers is now combing through the 5.4-million-square-foot Toyota plant deciding what to keep and what to reject. He said he may also now recruit some former NUMMI managers, but doesn't want to end up with a complete NUMMI management staff.
"We don't like to call the plant 'NUMMI' any more," Passin said. "We call it the Tesla manufacturing site."