Tesla’s Fremont behemoth, where all Model X, Model S and Model 3s are built, has to be one of the most famous car factories in the world - formerly for all the wrong reasons, more recently for all the right. The home of “production hell,” in Elon’s words, it’s where a previously boutique electric car company had to teach itself how to manufacture on a mass scale, in full view of the world.
As recently as last year, there were more bottlenecks here than the Coca-Cola factory up the road in Sacremento. Build quality was under fire, delays were rife, share price was sliding and there was no sign of the hallowed $35,000 Model 3, or whether it would ever be possible. Lately, though, things are looking up.
Through a combination of ruthless streamlining, reducing the level of automation in some key areas, and the boss himself resorting to sleeping on the factory floor to get the log-jams sorted, the Teslas are starting to flow, and so is the profit. In 2018 Fremont spat out 254,530 cars, 152 per cent more than in 2017, and Musk insists the trajectory is right to produce 500,000 in 2019. That’s 10,000 a week.
Recently, Top Gear embarked on a marathon Tesla-based 24 hours – road-tripping from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a Model 3 Performance and attending the reveal of the new Model Y, but before all that we had a chance to tour the Fremont factory. You can watch the video of the entire day, but it was the factory that left the deepest impression. So here’s a gallery of what we found inside, along with some mind-scrambling numbers for good measure. Here we go…