Elon Musk Says Tesla Suffered A Near-Death Experience During Model 3 Buildup

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Sunday night that the Silicon Valley company suffered a near-fatal blow earlier in 2018 while struggling to produce what some believe is the first marketable electric vehicle.

Tesla was within weeks of death this summer, Musk told Axios in an interview that appeared on HBO. His admission comes as the company prepares to transfer the company’s board of director position from Musk to Robyn Denholm, an executive with experience in the tech world.

“Essentially the company was bleeding money like crazy,” he said. “And just if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period time, we would die. And it was extremely difficult to solve them.”

Musk also lamented the amount of time he puts into the company. Working 120 hours a week on manufacturing and engineering on projects is not unusual, he added.

I just did it because if I didn’t do it, then [there was a] good chance Tesla would die.”

The Axios interview follows close behind an FBI probe into Tesla’s production schedules. Musk promised investors that Tesla would make 5,000 Model 3s per week to keep his legion of critics at bay. He said in a February 2017 phone conference that he was pushing suppliers to be ready for a weekly run rate of 4,000 vehicles by September of that year. The numbers never materialized.

The logo for Tesla Motors is shown at the company headquarters in San Carlos, California June 30, 2008.. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The company’s body shop wasn’t fully functional during the early part of production, The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2017. Tesla was still hand-building parts of the Model 3s, people familiar with the company’s production line told reporters at the time. Tesla’s troubles subsided little as the year wore on.

Tax filings published in October, for instance, showed Musk recently purchased $10 million in shares in Tesla and is planning to buy up another $20 million as the company continues wrestling with a growing FBI probe. (RELATED: DOJ Ramps Up Criminal Probe Into Tesla’s Model 3 Production Problems)

He also made the share purchase after the electric car maker agreed to pay a fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding investors in August. The company and Musk were both made to pay $20 million each.

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