Shortcuts have no place when it comes to automotive safety.
That's a lesson many of the big, established automakers learned the hard way. But we're not sure young Tesla has paid as much attention to its elders as it should. And the people who have forked over their cash for the chance to buy a hastily built Model 3 have reason to be concerned.
What are we to make of reports last week that Tesla scrambled to reassemble mothballed factory equipment, overworked its staff, took out 300 welds and stopped a standard "brake and roll" test as "redundant," as it raced to meet an arbitrary, self-imposed goal of building 5,000 Model 3 sedans in a week? What was it trying to prove?
We're not out to get Tesla. Its unlikely rise has impressed us, and it has been good for the rest of the industry, driving innovation and competition, and inspiring unprecedented interest in cleaner transportation. Watching the company and its flamboyant CEO, Elon Musk, flout some of the conventions of the staid auto industry has certainly been good for the storytelling business.
But watching them flout the norms of sound manufacturing and quality assurance has been more worrisome, especially when it appears to be for the sake of reassuring stockholders rather than the customers who will drive Tesla's new "mass market" vehicle.
Tesla and its cultish legions of supporters and investors are typically quick to argue that it plays by its own rules and shuns the conventional wisdom shaped over decades by the legacy auto industry. But the laws of physics can't be overridden on a whim, or overwritten in a software reflash.
Look at this mad production push alongside Tesla's arrogant defense of its misnamed Autopilot driver-assistance systems, and the pattern that emerges is a company willing to defy not only convention but also the basic standards of responsible automaking.
Tesla may have met its goal. But there's no honor in achieving, or even striving for, a production target if you're prepared to gamble the integrity of the vehicle, the safety of workers or the safety of the consumer.