Tesla to work 24/7

Tesla needs to boost Model 3 output to increase its revenue after spending billions to better its manufacturing capacity.
Tesla needs to boost Model 3 output to increase its revenue after spending billions to better its manufacturing capacity.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chief executive Elon Musk has set a target to build 6,000 Model 3 sedans a week by end-June

NEW YORK • Tesla will begin round-the-clock production at its assembly plant in Fremont, California, to accelerate its Model 3 output.

The electric-carmaker will try to build 6,000 of the sedans a week by end-June, chief executive Elon Musk wrote in an e-mail this week.

The goal is higher than the 5,000-a-week target Tesla had set for the end of the second quarter.

Its fortunes ride on boosting Model 3 output. It needs revenue from delivering more cars to customers after spending billions to boost its manufacturing capacity.

Mr Musk, who has said his automaker will be profitable and cash-flow positive in the third and fourth quarters, also put the brake on cost.

"I have asked the Tesla finance team to comb through every expense worldwide, no matter how small, and cut everything that doesn't have a strong value justification," he wrote.

"All capital or other expenditures above a million dollars, or where a set of related expenses may accumulate to a million dollars over the next 12 months, should be considered on hold until explicitly approved by me," he added.

Tesla produced 9,766 Model 3s in the first quarter and missed a goal to build 2,500 of the sedans in the last week of last month.

Mr Musk said going forward, workers should walk out of meetings or drop a call "as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value".

He also told staff to avoid using "acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla" to boost their productivity.

But he thanked his team for "accomplishing miracles" every day. "We are burning the midnight oil to burn the midnight oil," he said.

Meanwhile, California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened an investigation into Tesla following a report about worker protection at the plant in Fremont.

A story this week by the Centre for Investigative Reporting's Reveal alleged that the company failed to report serious injuries on legally mandated reports, making its numbers appear better than they were.

The website cited former members of Tesla's environment, health and safety team saying Mr Musk's preferences were often invoked as reason not to address potential hazards.

But Tesla has pushed back against the story in a lengthy blog post, calling it "an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organisation working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign".

The United Auto Workers union has been trying to organise Fremont workers for more than a year.

The Reveal investigation followed a February story by Buzzfeed in which former Tesla workers alleged that production pressure and failure to sufficiently rotate employees' tasks spurred serious injuries.

In May last year, the Guardian reported that Tesla managers pressed employees to work through pain and belittled safety complaints.

Several Fremont workers told Bloomberg News that Tesla's push to work long hours and its unresponsiveness to worker concerns have contributed to an unsafe environment.

"They're still 100 per cent just about production," said Mr Dennis Duran, a pro-union employee who works in the paint shop.

He had complained to management that "if the line goes down, I see 20 maintenance guys trying to get it up and running. I don't see that priority with health and safety".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'Tesla to work 24/7'. Print Edition | Subscribe