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Elon Musk says Tesla Model 3 remains 'deep in production hell'

Elon Musk says Tesla Model 3 remains 'deep in production hell'
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk says the Model 3, the new compact electric car on which the company's future depends, is "deep in production hell." ((Russ Mitchell / Los Angeles Times))

In July, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk warned of production hell ahead for the Model 3, the new compact electric car on which the company's future depends.

It's October, and the heat's still on. "We are deep in production hell," Musk posted on Twitter Friday, his tweet punctuated by an orange-and-yellow flaming emoji.

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Earlier this week, Tesla officially acknowledged Model 3 production problems, and reported that only 220 of the cars had been delivered, far short of the "at least 1,500" vehicles Tesla had forecast by the end of September.

Rumors that the Model 3 assembly line is not yet complete were bolstered by a Wall Street Journal article Friday reporting that major parts of the vehicles were still being assembled by hand.

Musk once had forecast production of 200,000 Model 3s by the end of this year. Now he's talking about a rate of 5,000 a week by the end of December — a rate that now appears to be in jeopardy.

The famously secretive company will not discuss its problems beyond Musk's tweets and other public statements. In a statement to investors Monday the company said "production bottlenecks" were to blame.

"It is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain. We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term," Tesla said.

In another Friday tweet, Musk said the production bottlenecks and hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico will delay the company's planned Oct. 27 unveiling of a prototype Tesla semi truck tractor into November.

Puerto Rico has attracted Tesla's attention as a hot market for its solar roof and storage battery energy systems. The island's power grid was almost completely shut down by Hurricane Maria. The federal government will spend billions to get the island back on its feet.

"Let's talk," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told Musk in his own tweet.

Musk once sat on one of President Trump's business advisory councils but quit in June because of the administration's lack of support for the Paris climate agreement.

Most new cars face production glitches early on but Musk has deliberately attracted worldwide attention on the Model 3, which will have to sell in the hundreds of thousands to make money and justify Tesla's sky-high stock valuation.

Tesla stock closed up $1.55 on Friday, to $356.88 a share.

Twitter: @russ1mitchell

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