Meanwhile, Tesla management has asked employees to limit their travel and work remotely whenever possible, as one of many ways to save costs.

In a recent e-mail that Musk sent to Tesla employees the CEO warned of more belt-tightening to come. He wrote:

“In the coming weeks, we will be evaluating all areas of our sales and marketing organization to understand where there are operational efficiencies, and how best to support the transition to online sales, while also continuing to deliver a truly awesome and educational Tesla buying experience.”

In Fremont, small items like rivets and fasteners have been in limited supply recently, when there used to be a surplus on-site, one employee said.

At the Gigafactory, management has sent hourly workers home mid-shift or asked them to take personal time off or volunteer for unpaid time off in recent weeks, leaving some with less income than they planned to earn. These people said that some Gigafactory shifts were cancelled due to snow-related closures on Donner Pass, a highway Tesla relies on for consistent flow of supplies to and from the Gigafactory.

Gigafactory workers also said that while the company’s semi-automated battery production lines have improved by leaps and bounds in the past year, Tesla is still not consistently making 7,000 vehicle batteries a week there. Workers said they are striving to hit an 8,000 per week goal, which should allow Tesla to make 416,000 cars in a year.

Tesla gave guidance in its fourth-quarter earnings update that it was aiming to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles in 2019, about 45 percent to 65 percent more than its deliveries last year. More recently, Musk reiterated in a series of controversial tweets that Tesla should hit an “annualized production rate” of around 10,000 cars per week by the end of 2019, and still expected to deliver about 400,000 cars this year.

In 2016, Musk said: “What really matters is the machine that builds the machine — the factory. And that is at least two orders of magnitude harder than the vehicle itself.”

That level of operational excellence remains a work-in-progress at Tesla.


Salvador Rodriguez
contributed to this report.

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