Aside from production growing pains, Tesla must address delivery and sales obstacles because of its direct sales being banned in many states and poor demand for all-electric vehicles amid low gasoline prices and a lack of infrastructure for the vehicles.
"There's a potential for something to go wrong right now that would affect Tesla more than any other vehicle manufacturer," said Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific. "They do not have the network of support and service that everyone else has established."
According to its website, Tesla has about 70 service centers in the U.S., including 20 in its home state of California.
In an effort to address some concerns, Tesla has announced increases in its Supercharger stations, and it appears to be trying to increase service center locations by converting several of its retail galleries in multiple states into service and delivery centers as part of a potentially larger restructuring of its operations, Automotive News has learned.
The most recent changes affect a few dozen employees at seven locations in Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona. Most of the affected employees will be relocated, while some will be let go but eligible to apply for other positions within the company.
Aside from Florida, those states have posed challenges to Tesla's direct-sales efforts. The company is banned from selling in Texas and Arizona, but it has so-called "galleries," or storefronts, where consumers can find information about the vehicles but not purchase.
A Tesla spokeswoman declined to comment on the changes.
Much of the hype and success surrounding Tesla comes from Musk. The tech billionaire has grown Tesla into an icon, with followers sometimes looking beyond significantly delayed product launches and quality problems.
He has arguably spun Tesla into the automotive industry's greatest brand accomplishment since Ferrari. But unlike the Italian brand, Tesla is moving into a harsher mainstream market.
Preorder demand for the Model 3 was unlike anything the auto industry has experienced. Tesla received 325,000 "reservations" that included a $1,000 cash deposit for the car in the first week of ordering. Many people placed the fully refundable deposits without seeing the car.
Strong demand means consumers placing new reservations aren't expected to receive their Model 3s until at least mid-2018 — a time frame that could make buyers impatient.
"The early customers are far more forgiving, but if you're hypothetically talking about half a million vehicles a year, these are not early adopters," said Joe Langley, principal analyst of North America light-vehicle production for forecasting firm IHS Markit. "They are not going to be as forgiving of things."