Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk set an aggressive production target for 2018: 500,000 vehicles in one year. That's six times the number of cars Tesla made in 2016.
Again and again, Tesla has defied the skeptics who argued that a Silicon Valley tech company had no business venturing into the world of car manufacturing and who have predicted that it's just a matter of time before Tesla runs out of money.
So it might be folly to suggest yet again that Tesla is in over its head. But after breaking ground in electrification and automotive software, the company is venturing into an area that is its competitive weakness: volume manufacturing.
Tesla's only assembly plant holds 10,000 workers — twice as many people as the Fremont plant held when Toyota and General Motors operated the site together as a joint lean manufacturing laboratory. And even with all those people, Tesla makes about one-fifth the cars NUMMI made at its peak.
Workers battle daily for parking spots. Unions are trying to capitalize on worker dissatisfaction to organize. And a new plant would cost billions and take time to build.
The mess at Fremont shows that in terms of managing a factory, Tesla is not at the cutting edge, but surprisingly behind the times.
Yes, the legacy industry can learn a few things from Tesla. But Tesla has a lot to learn from 100 years of automotive history.