It is no secret that some auto analysts, investors and journalists view Tesla CEO Elon Musk as something of a tech world P.T. Barnum, the famed circus showman with a silver tongue and gift for parting fools from their hard-earned cash. One might say the brash executive playfully embraces this caricature.
But there's one area where Musk can't hide behind jokes: inside the guts of his vehicles.
On Wednesday, April 25, the Automotive Press Association hosted an event at a Detroit-area reverse-engineering firm to get a look at a stripped-down Tesla Model 3. Munro & Associates, whose chief, Sandy Munro, panned the fit and finish of the Model 3 on "Autoline Daily," specializes in competitive cost analysis of vehicles for its clients. The company's experts offered their take on the Model 3's engineering and design, and the parts in the car that hint Musk may be an egomaniac.
Sound ridiculous? Take, for instance, Tesla's ego-driven practice of emblazoning its logo on components that, for the vast majority of its cars, will never see the light of day. Or Tesla's practice of naming chipset control units after superheroes Batman and Robin — thanks to Musk's penchant for humorous naming conventions.
But the real parallels lie in the engineering. Munro pointed out that Tesla's battery pack and propulsion system, known as the "skateboard," is "brilliant engineering."
Yet Munro was flabbergasted at the bodywork and construction of the vehicle, pointing out how the carmaker seems to switch randomly between machine and human soldering and bolting.
This isn't exactly a shocker. Musk has long been interested in the minute details of battery technology and chemistry. But his history with mass production processes leaves much to be desired.
Which begs the question: Why can't Musk ask for help? For years, rumors have abounded of potential acquisitions and partnerships that could give Tesla the assistance with mass production that it appears to need. And there are consultants like Munro steeped in lean-manufacturing knowledge who would be happy to help.
Admittedly, if Musk truly wants to reinvent the auto industry, starting on the factory floor isn't a bad idea. But if he wants to beat the haters and cement his reputation as the Henry Ford of the 21st century, then perhaps shelving his pride and opening up the doors might be a good place to start.