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Growing Pains

Reading the forums while I wait for my MS to show up, its clear that Tesla is going through growing pains. The hardest thing for a start-up to do is to scale--what was working when you were moving 50 units a month suddenly breaks when you moving 250 units a month:

  • On-boarding people is the hardest thing whether is for manufacturing, service, or customer care, its tough finding good people, getting them trained on process and, most importantly, getting them steeped in the culture, there are no short cuts, and in the interim, it can kinda suck for everyone involved (both employee and customer)
  • Processes and workflow most certainly need to be re-worked as the company rapidly grows, everything from QA to legal to marketing which further complicates the the people training
  • Logistics: For a given part that is produced, say a pano roof, how many should you hold for spares vs how many should you release to manufacturing--essentially how do you balance customer sat (having parts on hand) vs revenue (getting cars out the door), and where should you geographically store those parts anyway--now make that decision again for every part that goes into an MS. This is hard stuff and because Tesla operates unlike other car companies, its going to be a lot of trial and error

I am not looking to make excuses for Tesla. Far from it--we are the last critical step in the feedback loop that will help Tesla get better and we need to continue to let Tesla know what they are doing well and what they could be doing better. However, I also think for current and potential owners, its helpful to have reasonable expectations--they are a young company and they are not going to do everything perfect on the first try. I think George B's recent comments about slowing things down a bit are a move in the right direction by not blindly chasing revenue growth without the people, process infrastructure to support it.

Omar

Don't let the forum scare you. There are few minor issues that crop up,but Tesla is as a whole responsive and quick to correct issues. I have a roadster sport (2010 23k miles) and a Model S from March. No major issues. The only issue was a charging cord failure which they replaced by fed ex within 3 days. Please download the manuals and read them, many "issues" in the forum are actually features that are user defined in the menus on the car's main screen.

You are in good hands. You will love this car!! Congratulations.

Ron

Agree with Ronald A above. Please keep in mind that in general, the happy majority don't post about it. Forums are usually used by those with problems looking for solutions, so it always makes a product look worse than it is. The vast majority of owners have had no problems and are very happy with their Model S. I certainly am, and I expect you will be as well.

Guys:

Thanks for responding. I actually work with high tech start-ups on a regular basis. I think Tesla is doing fine and the bumps they are hitting are the good kinds of problems to have. I was merely making some observations--I am looking fwd to taking delivery of my MS in a couple of weeks and I have zero qualms.

Omar

Great post Omar!

I agree 100%, but its also exactly why I'm waiting. They're certainly going through growing pains as a company, but the car itself is slowly evolving. Not just firmware updates, but hardware tweaks here and there. Most of which is understandable, and sure the whole fog light issue made me pause. It wasn't a "deal killer", but obviously it's something I want to take a closer look at because for myself vision in adverse conditions is extremely important (I'd like something at least as good as the Range Rover Sport SC I had).

Maybe part of it is the fact that I'm an engineer myself, and I know all too well how something works awesome in the lab only to have some issue crop up in the field. So usually I like to give my fellow engineers some time to work out the kinks. Maybe 6-12 months.

With all that being said I'm not sure how long my "logical" side can hold out. Thankfully I still can't decide between going practical, or going a little crazy. The difference for myself is $300 a month.

I also might just invest because i do think they're a good long term investment. It just might not be the right time for myself to buy the car until the next rev.

S4wrxttcs. If you want something as good as a Range Rover Sport SC, you could get a Chevy Tahoe...same quality. Range Rover has been making cars for many many years and they still have lousy quality control...many of my friends just live with the electrical gremlins. With that said, Tesla is evolving, but their car is far superior to almost anything else out there in the market...this side of a RR. All cars get upgraded year to year, however, what car that you know of can get upgraded at night while you sleep...none that I know of except the Tesla. And the fog lights, really??, that made you pause? Fog lights on cars these days do not really give you that much more clearer vision unless you are driving through thick fog in London...it really is a NON-issue.

The car is fantastic and is very comparable to my Nissan GTR, BMW, Porsche, Volvo, Mercedes and Honda. Go make the purchase, you will have that Tesla Grin with your very first drive!

When should one expect these growing pains to be considerably over?
The MS is now out for a year in North America and shipments here in Germany are estimated for August. I fear that many customers over here would be quite unhappy to run into serious issues within the first few weeks after delivery, especially since there are only a couple of service centers planned (only one operational in Munich currently).
Shouldn't it be safe to assume that quality assurance has been improved up-to-par with other companies after a year of production?

@S4WRXTTCS there is a more constant improvement in the MS than "normal" cars because Tesla can fix issues in real time. The cars from Q1 '13 aren't the same entirely as Q2 because Tesla is fixing things along the way. This is more like we're used to in the computer world than the auto world. That being said you can always wait for better but you won't have it till then:) My March MS P85 is awesome and I also wish it had the + but that's what the wife is for. I'll give her mine when the P85+ AWD is out next year!

@ginsbergr - In reference to the Range Rover Sport I was talking about visibility during adverse conditions only. That means the entire lighting combination along with how well the wipers worked. I only leased it because I assumed it would have a bunch of issues down the road, but during my time with it I never had any issues aside from few funny glitches (nothing serious, and nothing all that different than glitches I've had with Audi's or Porsche's). The single most impressive thing about that vehicle was how well it handled adverse weather conditions (fog, snow, torrential rain storms, and the ugly constant drizzle). . I used that car as an example because for me that's the one that set the standard for adverse condition visibility. Dude, that thing had a heated windshield, and even a heated steering wheel (I thought I've never use it, but I used it all the time in the winter). It was literally like cheating winter. Certainly I don't expect the same from the Tesla, but I do expect equal visibility.

For the Tesla the removal of the fog lights (operationally I believe they got replaced with the cornering lights), and the substandard (not my account, but what I've gathered from owners) of the wiper system has given me pause. The pause is not like a "don't buy it", but more like a "lets make sure to test it out throughly to form my own opinion. While the weather is fairly mild where I live it rains almost constantly, and in the winter its constantly foggy near my house. Around 6 months ago we had fog that didn't move for 3 weeks straight. It was like living in some awful horror film.

"The hardest thing for a startup to do is to scale"

Absolutely. Tesla is very engineering centric and most of their key personnel have come from established companies, so I don't expect most of them to have experienced before the rapid growth that Tesla is currently experiencing. Also, Tesla's core mission is product-centric, whereas a lot of the issues we grouse about here are related to service and how Tesla interacts with its customers (e.g., consistency). If I were Elon, I'd invite Jeff Bezos down to chat about improving that aspect of the company. That said, I still find Tesla impressive as an organization.

@S4WRXTTCS If you look for reasons to NOT buy a car (or anything), you'll certainly find them. No product is without flaws, limits, and trade-offs.

@cfoH - I'm not sure what I said that you are referring to. My entire process with the Tesla MS is measure trade-offs. A big part of the trade-offs come from the MS being an entirely new design, and Tesla being a relatively new company. There are all sorts of trade offs with that.

With any car its usually a good idea to wait a year or two after the new model comes out. It's pretty standard advice. Just with the Tesla I'm not sure I can or if I even want to hold off. :-)

There is also a limit to what they can update through software fixes. Try fixing the pano-roof through software. As an aside i think they mostly fixed the issues with the pano-roof so I did scratch that one off my list of negatives.

S4W;
Elon and the boys determined that fog lights are functionally cosmetic. They are like any other lights: they illuminate the fog and make it nice and shiny.

Anytime you step increase a production rate you will see disruption in the system. New employees, cycle times, work assignments all lend to short term disruption that can cause minor quality escapements. You also have to take into account that Tesla suppliers having to ramp up their production and will experience the same type of disruption. There will be some learning curve but as long as the company stays focused on quality control each vehicle off the line will be better than the last.

Fog lights are more than just cosmetic. First, they are mounted low, which often gets below the fog. Second, the orange color cuts through the fog better than white lights. We live in Maine in the summer, when it is often very foggy, and have used them successfully for years on both our ICE cars.

In Germany there's also a red fog light required at the rear to be better visible to following cars. Is that not standard/required in US models?

@tobl_ger:

There is not going to be a "flag day" where everything is suddenly fixed. Its going to be an iterative process--baby steps. This is really no different than an ICE manufacturer. For example, I have owned multiple model years of the same car and seen them fix things between model years.

There are two significant differences, however, with Tesla: 1) the rate of iteration and 2) the attitude of management. As a number of owners have noted, the company has been rolling out updates and fixes in near real-time as opposed to between model years. I believe the central role of software in the Tesla product architecture gives the company a massive advantage over other companies in that they can easily fix things and deploy new features on the fly.

The more significant difference is the attitude of management. I know my purchase of the MS is risky, but I am willing to take the "leap" because I have faith that Elon, George, etc. In their words and actions, they have shown a desire to do the right thing and a concern for more than just the bottom line.

Omar

Hi Omar,
thanks for the reply. I wasn't trying to sound critical, just curious (no, I'm not a troll if anyone asks). I do understand that TM is going out if its way to satisfy customers and resolve any issues very proactively. Not only that, they are closely listening to feedback which makes it even more exciting to follow Elon/TM in all their endeavours (TM+SpaceX).
emoflash said it best with "each vehicle off the line will be better than the last" and I subscribe to that from having spent countless hours here on the forum; even though myself not being an owner, maybe with Blue Star. One can still dream! :)

Another thing that has caused growing pains is supplier issues.
They are ironing those issues out on the fly as they learn about them.

@tobi_ger We don't have the red rear fog light requirement in the US. We have red turn signals instead of the more visible amber ones, unfortunately.

@fredtowers - The old MS fog lights were white, not amber. I understand the fog light color is really an old issue and the amber color doesn't actually help.

I love how the car continues to improve as I own it with new updates. I'm not aware of any other car that offer this even if you were willing to pay for it!

@Brian H - You were a part of the thread that alerted me to the fog light issue. It's nice to see your position on the matter hasn't changed, but that wasn't the conclusion of the thread.

This is the original stand Elon had on the matter.

“You're right, we should have said something. Essentially, the "fog" lights were not actually helpful in fog or in any reasonable scenario we could envision, and were actually bad in some situations. They made Model S worse, so they were deleted.”

Now without commenting on that I'll go on to what the conclusion seemed to be (not his words exactly, but as written in that thread).

"new-and-improved fog lights will make a re-appearance in the future as an option. People who ordered cars with the understanding that they would have fog lights will be entitled to receive the upgraded version at no cost."

That's really all I wanted. For the lighting system to be as good as it can be, and to be extensively tested. Obviously it wasn't tested properly in the first place or they wouldn't have made changes to it.

I think part of this whole issue is I don't really think of Fog lights as FOG lights. I tend to think of them as ground lighting. Where I only use them when I want better visibility of the road right in front of me.

The Tesla is pretty low to begin with so the existing lighting setup might work just fine. If they hadn't of made the change I probably wouldn't have even thought of testing it.

tobi_ger I am curious, altho this might be a bit off subject, do other countries have laws that will prevent Tesla from giving customers the best experience like some of our backwards states here in the US?

I think that is a big part of some of Tesla's growing pains. Every state in the US has different laws so they have to almost have 50 different rule sets.

In Germany for example there will only need to be one delivery check list not 50... or do different cities have different laws in Germany?

Sudre:
I haven't checked in detail, but I haven't heard about similar restrictive laws here in Germany WRT dealerships (driving for 20+ years), but then I haven't had bad experiences with them, neither, after 10+ years of driving leased cars.
And yes, should be one check list only nationwide, cities don't play a role in delivery here.

OP is spot on. Everything worked out fine for my 27-June delivery, but it wasn't exactly a smooth process. My Tesla was delivered to me by a flatbed driver who told me how to charge the car and put it into drive before taking off (well before I inspected the car and ran down Nick's checklist). All is well, but it was a bumpy ride. Kudos to most of the Tesla staff that made it happen (the last DS in GA seemed a little iffy, but I who knows, it was a last minute sub)!

I seriously hope they work the high-volume sales, business infrastructure and sustained support side of the house to match the quality of the vehicles they make. It's going to be a challenge because Model S's are going to sell like hotcakes.

michael;
Read this:
http://seekingalpha.com/article/1463661-on-elon-musk-and-tesla-motors-th...

Elon has it covered. He's already won. E.g., he's playing the shorts like a fiddle. The batteries are actually rated/designed for 750K miles. ICE companies can't afford to compete, and are therefore doomed, except for Benz. Etc.

If the batteries are "rated/designed" for 750k miles, don't you think Tesla would be promoting that fact? I find this a little hard to believe myself.

The article was a very interesting read. There's both a lot of spin and facts out there in the media now. Regardless of my personal speculation, I'm in--I have the car and will continue to invest in TSLA long. While we might (or not!) be in for a bumpy ride during the massive growth leading all the way up to Gen-III, the ACTUAL ride is pretty smooth and will continue to keep me plenty occupied with less important things :)

@AR - Aye, it's hard to believe, but I gave up on speculating in regards to some things such as the battery. Most other companies would promote the bigger number, but Tesla seems to under-promise/over-deliver fairly often (my order-to-delivery took 30 days instead of the official 3 months stated on FAQS and DESIGN). In the case of the battery, maybe it's a legal thing. I seem to recall a post not too long ago saying they were still testing batteries for demonstrated endurance instead of theoretical endurance (it was at 500k miles I thought). Still...I have no idea.

Yes, Elon did say he had an 85 kWh pack "back in the lab" that already had over 500,000 miles on it.

Good thread.

Have had our P85 for four days (red / black / Pano / Tech package. An amazing car.

For over 20 years my firm has focused on helping large technology companies and their channel partners (Retailers and Distributors) optimize their ' after the sale ' business processes. This segment becomes the most complex part of any technology business and has the most risk for the brand's integrity.

One point of view - Tesla is performing much better than many start up technology companies that I'e seen over the last 20+ years. Better doesn't mean perfect but who would ever rationally expect perfect. Challenges will happen and the measure of progress and quality will be the response to challenges.

Keep up the posts. The Tesla community has been quite helpful. Thanks.


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