Tesla. Inc.’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) Has Major Trouble Inside Its New York Solar Plant
Tesla Inc’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) production of solar roof tiles is being delayed by assembly-line problems at its new publicly subsidized factory and difficulties producing a product that satisfies the aesthetic demands of CEO Elon Musk, 8 former and current employees of both companies told Reuters.
Repeated hold-ups since the Buffalo, NY plant opened last year have forced Tesla’s partner in the joint venture, Panasonic, to seek other buyers for the components it had built to sell to Tesla, according to a Panasonic employee, a former Panasonic employee and a former Tesla employee.
The issues have also rattled the faith of NY State officials in Tesla’s ability to deliver on investment and employment promises it made in exchange for $750-M in state subsidies.
The production challenges add to doubts over Tesla’s cash-strapped solar operations as it focuses on boosting production of its better-known electric vehicles, which have also seen repeated production delays.
Tesla acquired the solar business in Y 2016 in a controversial $2.6-B purchase of SolarCity, a sales and installation company founded by 2 of CEO Musk’s cousins, but the business has been shrinking ever since.
The “Solar Roof” produced at the New York factory is designed to look like a normal roof while generating electricity, a combination that has proved challenging.
In a call with Tesla investors last week, Mr. Musk said “hundreds” of homes already had solar roofs, but the company clarified the estimate in its statement to Reuters, saying it included systems that had been partially installed or were “being scheduled for install.”
In California, the nation’s leading solar market, there were just 12 Tesla roof systems connected to the grid as of 31 May, all in Northern California, according to records from the state’s three investor-owned utilities. The cost per watt for those systems was listed at nearly $6, according to the records. That is about 2X the national average for solar systems.
Tesla began accepting $1,000 deposits from customers for the Solar Roofs in May 2017, 7 months after it unveiled a prototype.
Tesla confirmed in a statement that it has been seeking to improve on its production process for the solar roof at the New York plant.
“We are steadily ramping up Solar Roof production in Buffalo and are also continuing to iterate on the product design and production process,” the company said in the statement. “We plan to ramp production more toward the end of 2018.”
More hype from the King Hypmeister, Elon Musk?
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