Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk has said the company was building advantages in the ability to make electric vehicles cheaply and efficiently. Those claims keep looking more questionable.
The latest knock against Tesla’s production credentials comes from Munro & Associates, a small Detroit-area firm that disassembles new cars and analyzes them down to the nuts and bolts. Founder Sandy Munro has picked apart Model 3 sedans and praised their battery packs and electronics but pans much of the rest of the vehicles as costly, heavy and poorly built.
For Tesla, developing the ability to mass-manufacture cars is key to its viability. Musk, who predicted programmable robots would give the electric-vehicle maker a leg up over the rest of the auto industry, has instead confronted repeated manufacturing delays and steep losses. If Munro is right, Musk may have a more lasting problem on his hands: Tesla's first model for the masses could be weightier and more expensive to build than competing models that are on the way.
“Mechanically, I don’t have much good to say,” Munro said last week on “Autoline After Hours,” a show streamed weekly by a Detroit-area broadcaster. “If it would have come out even decent, they’d have mopped the floor with everybody. But they didn’t.”
The Model 3 weighs more than any vehicle of its size, in part because Tesla uses unnecessary materials that add cost, Munro said Wednesday in an interview at Munro & Associates' evaluation center in Auburn Hills, Mich. The long-battery-range version of the vehicle tips the scales at more than 3,800 pounds, about 250 pounds heavier than General Motors' Chevrolet Bolt electric car.
A Tesla spokeswoman wrote in an email that the cars bought by Munro were built in 2017. The company, the spokeswoman said, has been refining Model 3 manufacturing processes since starting production last year and that the standard deviation of all gaps and offsets across the sedan has improved on average by almost 40 percent, with particular gap improvements visible in the area of the trunk, rear lamps and rear quarter panel.