News & Opinion | June 30, 2018 5:00 am

Fate of the Model 3—and Maybe Tesla—Rests on a Large Tent

Elon Musk has set up a makeshift assembly line inside it to fulfill his Model 3 production pledge.

Workers assemble cars on the line at Tesla's factory in Fremont. (David Butow/Corbis via Getty Images)
Corbis via Getty Images

Old-fashioned tent revivals were what traveling preachers often used to restore the faith of outsiders and perform supposed miracles (and sometimes shakedown gullible donors). In a desperate bid to meet demand for his Model 3, Tesla CEO Elon Musk seems to be banking on a similar strategy to right his struggling car company (while some are suspicious this includes the shakedown part).

The clock is ticking for Musk because there are only a few days left for him to fulfill his pledge that the electric car company is capable of producing 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week. If he is successful, he can credit the massive tent—about the size of two football fields—outside his Fremont, California factory for the achievement.

That’s because the tent contains a makeshift assembly line that Musk hastily pulled together for the Model 3, a crucial new offering that is supposed to bring a more affordable electric vehicle to the masses. Musk announced the tent on June 16 on Twitter, saying the company put together an “entirely new general assembly line” using spare parts. The building permit was issued June 13.

Musk called it “pretty sweet” while auto manufacturing observers deride it as “basically, nuts,” writes Bloomberg. “Words fail me. It’s insanity,” said Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.’s Max Warburton, who benchmarked auto-assembly plants around the world before becoming a financial analyst, according to Bloomberg. 

It is unclear if the new line is fully operational. The tent was recently surrounded by large trucks, which obstruct the view.