This week, production of the Tesla Model 3 was shut down for the second time this year to allow the company to “improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks”  at its Fremont, California factory. Tesla photo. 

Problems in roboticized assembly line have complicated Tesla Model 3 production

Production on the highly-anticipated Tesla Model 3 has been shut down for the second time this year in what the Palo Alto-based company is calling a planned production pause.

In February, Tesla temporarily halted production of the new sedan at its Fremont, California factory. At the time, the company warned there could be more shutdowns in the future.

“These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates,” a Tesla representative told Reuters on Monday.

The company had hoped to produce 2,500 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter this year, however, problems with the roboticized assembly line have thrown a wrench in the works.

Late last week, company CEO Elon Musk acknowledged that he over-relied on automation in the Tesla Model 3 assembly line.

In the past, Musk had bragged about creating an “Alien Dreadnought” within the Fremont factory by 2018, but on Friday, Musk tweeted “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake”.

He added “To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”

Musk also tweeted that Tesla will be profitable and cash flow positive in the third and fourth quarters.  He says there is no need to raise more money.

Despite Musk’s claims, many analysts are wary of his analysis, which is based on a rapid increase in production of the Model 3.  To date, production delays and lower-than-expected volume have slowed cash flow into Tesla.

Shares in Tesla fell 3 per cent on Monday and were pressured by Musk’s acknowledgement.  As well, the company is accused of undercounted worker injuries, which Tesla denies, and an amended lawsuit that was originally filed last year alleging Musk misled investors about production of the Model 3.

According to Reuters, automakers stop or slow production of new models to address problems with the production process.  Experts say Tesla took some shortcuts with testing its production line so it could get cars to market quicker.  These shortcuts have likely resulted in early manufacturing problems.

BuzzFeed reports that workers are expected to use vacation days or stay home without pay during the four-to-five day pause in production.