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Tesla ’10 years ahead’ of competition, says auto-manufacturing expert

  • Tesla’s manufacturing has improved by large magnitudes from the days of “production hell,” one expert says. 
  • Sandy Munro, one of the foremost experts on vehicle teardowns and cost analysis, says the Model Y is the first electric vehicle he’s ever recommended. 
  • The company improves because it constantly evolves its design, something that’s helped it get a decade up on the competition, Munro said in an interview. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s been years since Elon Musk was famously sleeping at Tesla’s factory amid “production hell.”

And in the time since, things have improved so much that Tesla is now a full decade ahead of the competition, according to one manufacturing expert.

“I don’t think they really quite understood or grasped the concept of making cars at production speeds,” Sandy Munro, well-known for his cost analysis teardowns of cars, told a conference hosted by Bernstein last week.

But things have changed in the years since, something investors and analysts have clearly noted. The company’s stock price has soared alongside four consecutive profitable quarters, a first for Tesla.

How? “Well number one, they ripped out a lot of robots,” Munro said. “I think that Elon thought that somehow robots could take over everything, but in actuality that’s been proven wrong in many, many cases.”

Musk himself admitted in April that, while robots are helpful, “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake …. Humans are underrated.”

But there’s another area where Tesla has a leg up on the competition, Munro says: it continually improves on designs.

“So what Tesla’s done is it’s cranked out a product that’s probably 90%, 95% there,” he said. “But they’ve got so many ways of investigating what’s going on in each car all the time that the feedback can say ‘Hey, what I think what we should do is X. Let’s make that engineering change and implement it on the vehicles from here going forward, and if or when a customer has a problem, bingo, we don’t know how to solve it or we’ll replace the parts.'”

“If I had to make a choice between the two — getting to 95% and then basically waiting until customers complained and then changing things rapidly,” Munro continued. “I’d rather take that approach.”

That approach seems to be working. Tesla’s on track to produce nearly 500,000 cars this year, analysts estimate, in-line with the company’s guidance. The company has already released delivery and production numbers for the third quarter, which topped expectations and set a record. Now, with the Model Y beginning to come off the production line, Munro is impressed.

“I said in the past that Tesla with the Model 3 was probably five to eight years ahead of everybody else,” he said, “and now in some cases I think that in some areas of the car, Tesla is 10 years ahead, especially when it comes to the manufacturing.”

Tesla will report its third-quarter financials on October 21.

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