It's been rumoured that all is not well in the land of Tesla. We all know already that mass production of the long-awaited Model 3 hasn't been particularly smooth sailing but, with that ever-stoner-like smile and gentle reassurance from the boss, Elon Musk, all seems under control.
When former employees start throwing around claims that the problems are much worse than the company is happy to admit, it's easy enough to chalk that up to 'disgruntled former employees' who feel hard-done-by. But, it's quite a revelation when current employees join in the fray too – albeit anonymously.
If the rumour-mill is to be believed, then warnings that the problems are much worse than the company will acknowledge, should be taken seriously. Which is quite a scary thought considering these employees are claiming that Tesla’s Gigafactory was still making hand-made battery packs for the Model 3 in mid-December. Acknowledging that the process is supposed to be automated, with the humans on site merely there to supervise, then stories regarding Tesla asking Panasonic (who supply the battery cells) if they could "lend" some of their own work-force to speed up production is frightening.
If you still don't quite understand the gravity of this particular claim, then read on to see what two engineers who spoke to CNBC had to say: "Some workers, who lack training, routinely install the lithium-ion cells in the pack too close to each other, which could cause the battery to short out or catch fire".
If this is true, then Tesla's reputation for building safe cars like the Model X and the Model S may be in jeopardy.
There are always many sides to every story though, and Tesla firmly disagrees with, well, everyone's allegations.
In an email sent to Digital Trends recently, the company had this to say in response:
"This is an extremely misinformed and misleading article. To be absolutely clear, we are on track with the previous projections for achieving increased Model 3 production rates that we provided earlier this month. The implication that Tesla would ever deliver a car with a hazardous battery is absolutely inaccurate, contrary to all evidence, and detached from reality. Hypothetically, even if two cells of the same voltage potential were touching, there would be absolutely zero impact, safety or otherwise – it would be as if two neutral pieces of metal touched.”
Considering that none of the Model 3s built so far have exploded then we guess there's some truth to Tesla's rebuttal.
What remains to be seen though is how exactly the company expects to make up the difference between their claims and actual reality in terms of vehicle output. To wit; in July last year, Musk predicted 100 vehicles off the production line by August, increasing substantially to a whopping 20 000 cars per month by December 2017. In October though, they had only produced 260 examples and admitted that 5 000 vehicles by March 2018 would be a realistic goal.
Either way, things are clearly not all they seem in the land of Tesla. Hopefully, our next news article doesn't contain a Model 3 on fire because of whatever is actually going on behind closed doors.