Head Of Manufacturing Praises Tesla Plan For Making Cars

Peter Hochholdinger used to be the senior director of production at Audi where he was responsible for making the A4, A5, and Q5 vehicles. Now he is in charge of production for Tesla Motors, which has dedicated itself to ramping up the number of cars it makes from 100,000 to 500,000 a year within 24 months. That’s a tall order, but Hochholdinger seems up to the challenge. After two months on the job, he is as confident as Elon Musk that Tesla can reach its goal.

Tesla factory tour

“The cars we build are about seven years beyond everything I’ve seen before,” Hochholdinger says. He especially enjoys working to manufacture electric cars. “[E]verybody else is continuing with the normal business of building [internal combustion] cars, and I think that will not work.”

Earlier this year, Elon Musk shocked the automotive world by moving the 500,000 car a year target forward by a full 12 months. How will it reach that goal? Hochholdinger says its all about density. “Why is the footprint of the factory so big? Why can’t we put more density into it? These are questions we have to solve. The next question is: Why is the process so slow? Why is the conveyor belt that moves the cars (through general assembly) as slow as a turtle? Couldn’t we speed it up by five times, by 10 times? Can we put more automation into general assembly? Everybody in the world tries that. We have an opportunity with a car like Model 3 to do it, and we will do it.”


Hochholdinger emphasizes that Tesla’s ability to achieve unorthodox production levels is made easier because its vehicles are fully electric. “It’s all about the product. You have to make the products as simple as possible and as buildable as possible so that we can do that. (The Model 3) has no exhaust system. It has no gear box. It has no engine. It’s more or less a computer on wheels. It’s very thrilling and exciting. This car is totally different than everything else done before.”

If there is an obstacle to meeting production goals, Hochholdinger says it is the supply chain. “We have to work on our supply chain, getting our parts on time into the factory, and in the numbers we need. [We will do that by] being more efficient and being more on time and doing more tracking about which materials are in transit, which are in process, and which are here in the factory.” He believes completely that Tesla’s “machine that makes the machine” approach is going to be a competitive advantage. Ultimately, it is what will enable Tesla to manufacture a half million high quality electric cars every year.

Elon Musk had the ability to hire just about any manufacturing professional he wanted to run his factory. With Hochholdinger, he got the best of the best.

Source: Motley Fool


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.