Economy, Auto
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Tesla Gears Up to Jump-Start Battery Production

Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, the USTesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, the US

Tesla Inc has flown six planes full of robots and equipment from Europe to California in an unusual, high-stakes effort to speed up battery production for its Model 3 electric sedan.

Transporting equipment for a production line by air is costly and hardly ever done in the automotive industry, and the move underscores Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk’s urgency to get a grip on manufacturing problems that have hobbled the launch of the high-volume Model 3 and pushed Tesla’s finances deep into the red.

“As usual with Tesla, everything is being done in a massive hurry and money seems to be no obstacle,” a source told Reuters.

Tesla on Friday declined to comment on whether it has shipped in any new production equipment from Europe.

Investors are closely watching Tesla and its high-profile, often brash CEO to see if the upstart electric vehicle maker can pull off high-volume production of the Model 3, a car with the potential to catapult the niche automaker to a mass producer and assure its financial stability.

 Burning Cash

But manufacturing missteps have led Tesla to repeatedly miss production targets for the sedan, and raised doubts about Musk’s promises that the company will stop burning cash by the third quarter of this year. Tesla had free cash flow of negative $1 billion in the first quarter, and earlier this month disclosed that it could offer its Fremont, California, vehicle assembly plant as collateral for debt.

Engineers from Tesla’s German engineering arm, Grohmann, are now reworking the battery production line at the Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada, in a bid to free up bottlenecks, the person said. The line will become more automated gradually over time, added the source, who was not authorized to speak for attribution.

Musk first disclosed plans for this line on a conference call with analysts in November, after complaining of problems with an original line built by a subcontractor.

Musk has told investors the new battery production line will help the carmaker achieve a quantum leap in productivity. The company has noted, however, that it will still be able to reach its target of building 5,000 Model 3s per week by June without the addition of the new line.

But Tesla’s lack of consistency in its factories has undercut Musk’s production promises in the past.

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