Tesla has air-lifted six plane loads of factory machinery from Europe to California to speed up battery production for its Model 3 electric car, according to a Reuters report.
Reuters cited two people familiar with the arrangement, who were not authorized to speak on the record.
Transporting factory machinery by air is very rare in the auto industry, because it’s so expensive given the size and weight of automotive assembly robots. Most automakers build and test their final assembly machinery and test it well ahead of time to avoid such expensive adjustments later on.
One of the sources in the Reuters story, was quoted as saying, "As usual with Tesla, everything is being done in a massive hurry and money seems to be no obstacle."
Tesla gigafactory, March 2016, shown in drone footage posted to YouTube by Above Reno
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that the company is in "production hell" as it tries to ramp up production of its mass-market Model 3 to 5,000 to 6,000 cars per week to build up enough revenue to keep the company afloat.
Last week, Musk responded on Twitter to a customer who asked about availability of an entry-level $35,000 Model 3 that, "With production, 1st you need to achieve target rate & then smooth out flow to achieve target cost. Shipping min cost Model 3 right away wd cause Tesla to lose money & die. Need 3 to 6 months after 5k/wk to ship $35k Tesla & live."
The airlifted materiel is apparently designed to help the company "smooth out" its production flow of the Model 3.
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Since the sources said the equipment was designed to improve battery production, it is probably bound for the company’s Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, where it produces battery packs for the Model 3. Battery pack production was one of two obstacles Musk identified in the company’s first quarter earnings call as holding up production of the Model 3.
This may hint at an answer to the question we asked last week about whether orders for high-margin, loaded Model 3 varieties were accelerated to bring in needed revenue for the company. (See link, above.
Green Car Reports has reached out to Tesla for comment, but had not heard back from the company before publication.