One of Tesla's "barnacles" made news this week after he picked apart a Model 3 and went over his findings with a Bloomberg reporter.
Sandy Munro, the founder of Munro & Associates, a small consulting company that disassembles new cars piece by piece, said his firm spent 6,600 hours tearing down the Model 3 and discovered it has the best technology of any electric car on the market, but its design and manufacturing process are dragging down profit margins.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has described consultants such as Munro as "barnacles" that need to be scraped off, but Munro is the rare outsider who did get his attention. After he put out an initial report in April, identifying problems with the design of the Model 3, Musk's team arranged a call.
Munro said he admires Tesla's technology, so he sent the company a pro bono list of 227 suggested improvements.
Many of the problems stem from unconventional choices made by Musk. "If that car was made anywhere else, and Elon wasn't part of the manufacturing process, they would make a lot of money," Munro said in an interview. "They're just learning all the old mistakes everyone else made years ago."
Take the steel and aluminum frame at the bottom of the car, a design meant to increase safety. Tesla's battery already sits in the floor and adds stiffness, Munro said, so Tesla made the car heavier and more expensive without getting much benefit.
The aluminum trunk well, meanwhile, is made from multiple pieces held together with rivets and weld points instead of one lighter, cheaper fiberglass trunk preferred by other carmakers. The rear wheel well on the Model 3 also features nine pieces of metal riveted, sealed or welded together. The Chevy Bolt? It has one stamped piece of steel.
"This body is their single biggest problem," Munro said. "It's killing them."
Tesla declined comment, although the company did cite a statement from April saying that Model 3 line has gotten better since Munro's cars were built. "We have significantly refined our production processes since then, and while there's always room for improvement, our data already shows that Model 3 quality is rapidly getting better."