When the plane landed at Pudong Airport in Shanghai, through the clouds, it could see the sharp angle of the land extending to the sea. Further down, the unique circular Lake Dishui Lake area in front of the sharp angle of the land could be seen. This is the main urban area of Shanghai. Walking 20 kilometers southwest from here is “Tesla Shanghai Super factory”.
Surrounded by a vast and undeveloped farmland, the 860000 square meter Tesla factory is running day and night. Heavy trucks loaded with new Tesla cars of different colors are driving from here to all over China and the world.
On July 13, 2018, Tesla signed a contract with the Shanghai municipal government, announcing that the “super factory” will be located near the port of Shanghai. In January 2019, the factory was officially put into operation. In December of the same year, the first batch of model 3 produced by Shanghai factory was delivered. By October 2020, the offline model 3 will even be exported to Europe.
Everything is perfect “China speed”.
|Outside Tesla’s Shanghai Super factory, double deck trailers carrying new cars just out of the factory (photo source: pinplay)
Separated from the red double decker trailer carrying Tesla’s off-line cars, there are white buses carrying Tesla employees, and workers who live in nearby rental houses and commute on foot. In the coming 2020, Tesla’s share price has risen six times, and the third quarter is the best financial report in history. In that quarter, car production increased by 51% year-on-year and 65% month on month, reaching 145000.
Under the background that the United States is still shrouded by the new coronavirus, Europe’s new coronavirus mutates wildly, Tesla is unable to extricate itself from the “capacity hell” of manufacturing in the United States, and Europe’s Berlin super factory is shut down again, it is these Shanghai Super factory employees wearing fluorescent clothes and safety helmets that enable Tesla to complete the capacity climbing.
Tesla’s China speed has driven the crazy stock price of Tesla in 2020. As of December 23, 2020, Tesla’s market value has exceeded $610 billion. Both Tesla and Silicon Valley see the excitement as a way to change the world. But what New York and Silicon Valley elites never try to focus on is that what happens in the “miracle making” and day and night lit Tesla Shanghai factory is far from the vision of “changing the world.”.
|Heavy trucks rush out of Tesla’s Shanghai Super factory on a stormy night
Missing unqualified parts
“In order to complete the production, Tesla is reducing its quality standards by all means,” several Tesla insiders in China told pinplay.
An employee who works in warehouse and logistics finds that unqualified parts will disappear for no reason.
The reason for the disappearance of these unqualified parts is in sharp contrast to the “high-tech image” Tesla has always created: Generally speaking, manufacturing companies will use SAP system to manage the transportation and circulation of factory products. Tesla once used it for a short time, but because it was “too expensive and had to pay a lot of money every year”, it was later stopped.
After shutting down SAP’s system, Tesla’s own it department “copied” a similar software system, “which is not intelligent at all,” people familiar with the matter told pinplay.
This leads to the automatic acceptance, transportation and assembly of parts that can be completed by the system, but it requires a lot of manual jacking. One consequence of this is that the accuracy of warehouse inventory is a mess.
Because of the inaccuracy of the system, workers can’t judge whether the parts are qualified or not. In the final inventory, I wanted to trace where the broken parts went, only to find that they could not be found.
The above insiders speculate that these bad parts may have been installed on the vehicle.
Not only did the assembly get out of control, but Tesla’s parts even went wrong at the root.
There is a cost to pursuing speed. The huge production pressure makes it difficult for suppliers to bear. “There’s no supply at all. It’s hard.” A Tesla supplier said. When the demand for output reaches the critical point, the price will be the sacrifice of quality. “The solution is very simple and crude, that is, to put the defective parts directly online.”.
This statement has been recognized by several suppliers, who even said that it is an “open secret” in the industry.
Tesla’s internal quality staff are also feeling the change. Some employees told pinplay that in Tesla’s open office area, they often hear people’s comments: with the decline of parts quality, there are many problems with the cars made by Shanghai factory, and the quality standard scores are also declining correspondingly. If the cars are released according to the original standards, no cars will pass the quality inspection. But their solution is not to improve quality. It is to lower the factory standard after vehicle inspection.
“For example, in the past, 80 points was enough to leave the factory, but now 60 points is enough,” Tesla insiders told pinplay.
Some Tesla engineers lamented that although the appearance of the car seems to be Tesla, the process accuracy is not a bit poor in quality control. “This (Shanghai factory) car is completely another car, which is fundamentally a defective product.”.
Security risks accumulate in these links, and Tesla China’s management team makes the problem worse.
Previously, some model s had problems with protruding front ball head bolts. This is a high-end model of Tesla, with a price of RMB 700000-1.2 million. In extreme cases, this will cause the conical seat of the ball head to come out of the steering knuckle, affect the handling of the vehicle, and increase the risk of accidents.
However, at a weekly meeting after the problem, Xue Juncheng, the after sales service director of Tesla Greater China, said this:
“We can’t recall it. When we find that the owner’s car has a problem, we can replace it secretly,” he said at the meeting. “For example, when the car comes for maintenance or the owner asks for a replacement, we can replace it.”.
Layer upon layer, in the face of car owners, this quality problem has become a “free upgrade” in Tesla’s official after-sales discourse.
At a later meeting, Xue Juncheng also quoted an internal statistical data, saying that more than 100 model s had the same problem. Industry insiders explained that, affected by the frequency of use, the problem of front ball head bolts does include probability factors, but more than 100 vehicles are not a small number.
An old Tesla employee who attended the meeting told pinplay: the same problem was found and raised as early as 2017, but there has been no public solution for the same purpose of delaying the recall and avoiding excessive costs. It can be seen that the quality problems of Tesla’s production in China are deeply influenced by the consistent attitude of its headquarters.
In fact, Tesla has only conducted three vehicle recalls in the Chinese market, all involving only imported models. The cars produced by the Shanghai factory have never been affected. Among them, on October 23, 2020, nearly 30000 imported model s and model X were recalled due to the failure of front suspension connecting rod, which is the largest recall in China.
However, just after the recall, CNBC reported that Tesla, in the face of inquiries from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said that they did not agree with the findings of the State Administration of market supervision and administration of China on the production quality of Tesla cars. Instead, they believed that the problem of vehicles was caused by “abuse by Chinese car owners” and poured “dirty water” back to Chinese users.
However, it is somewhat ironic that the official voice of Tesla has not been lost. In November 2020, NHTSA said that it would formally investigate the defects of front suspension of 110000 Tesla cars.
At the same time, accidents caused by Tesla’s quality problems emerge in endlessly, which are also frequently reported by the global media: the central control screen goes black without warning in the process of driving, the vehicle is out of control in driving, the roof leakage causes the cab to leak rain and the horn to rust, and several accidents have caused casualties.
But these quality defects and safety risks can not stop Tesla’s yearning for production capacity and output. As a matter of fact, a very important consideration for Shanghai to introduce Tesla super factory to settle down in the first place is to value the overall driving force of Tesla factory to the upstream supply chain of manufacturing industry around Shanghai and its driving force to the development of made in China to a higher quality. However, Tesla doesn’t seem to be very interested in “made in China with higher quality” and has little effort.
January 1, 2021