We Set Out to Crack Tesla’s Biggest Mystery: How Many Model 3s It’s Making
Tesla has accomplished something no other automaker can claim: It’s made a relatively affordable electric car, the Model 3, that hundreds of thousands of people are lining up to buy. The only problem is that Elon Musk and company can’t produce enough of them.
Sluggish output since the Model 3 launch in July 2017 has frustrated fans and confounded Wall Street. That’s why Bloomberg built its own tool to estimate the number of Model 3s rolling out of the factory in Fremont, California. This projection relies on Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), unique strings of digits displayed on every new car sold in the U.S.
Our best estimate is that Tesla has manufactured 6,145 Model 3s so far, and is now building approximately 572 a week. Those figures, and the charts below, represent Bloomberg’s latest estimates and will automatically update to reflect changes in the data.
The Bloomberg Model 3 tracker relies on data from official U.S. government resources, social media reports, and direct communication with Tesla owners. We have two methods for gathering and analyzing the VIN data. Tesla declined to comment.
We’ve been tracking VINs that Tesla registers with U.S. safety regulators. The modern VIN system was standardized beginning in 1954 in order to prevent car theft. Today, VINs are frequently used to expedite recalls.
By sending digital requests to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, we can get a good picture of how many VINs have been registered for Model 3s at any given time. We track the number of VINs between batch registrations and use the number of intervening days to estimate a production rate.
Tesla Registered VINs Model
VINs registered with NHTSA
Bloomberg estimates for Model 3 production
Source: NHTSA, Bloomberg
There are limits to this method. Automakers register VINs in large batches that anticipate coming production, which means that numbers will be assigned before a new car starts its journey down the assembly line. There’s theoretically no limit to the number of VINs Tesla might register in a batch.
For our second data set, we scoured the internet for VINs posted by people on social media—primarily Reddit and other websites frequented by Tesla customers and fans. Almost a half-million people with $1,000 reservations are waiting, in some cases with fraying patience, for their chance to buy a Model 3. As early cars began to trickle out in 2017, fans began reporting any chance encounter on roads and in parking lots.
These sightings often include VINs, which are visible beneath the windshield. It’s a crude way to track the rollout because not all VINs are produced sequentially, deliveries can be delayed, and even the most enterprising Model 3 sleuths will inevitably miss some newly released cars.
We’ve taken the VIN data gathered from social media and added a layer of self-reported VINs submitted directly to Bloomberg. Do you own a Model 3 or have you spotted one in the wild? Submit the VIN here. We don’t retain or publish full VIN sequences.
Tesla Spotted VINs Model
VINs spotted in the wild
VINs reported to Bloomberg
Bloomberg estimates for Model 3 production
Source: Reddit, Tesla forums, Bloomberg, Simon Teufl
For our estimate, we’ve aligned the two datasets with Tesla’s reported production and averaged the results from the two methods. Given the exponential trajectory of a production ramp up, there may be sudden increases in output that this model is slow to catch. We will continue to make adjustments to the model as Tesla publishes new production figures at the end of each quarter.
Why Are We Doing This?
Back in 2010, Tesla became the first publicly traded carmaker to emerge in the U.S. in 54 years. Now its market value rivals Ford and General Motors, companies producing orders of magnitude more vehicles than Tesla. Most of the cars Tesla sells today are priced to compete with luxury models made by Mercedes, BMW and Porsche.
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants his electric-car company to become a dominant mass-production player that eventually extends its reach to electric trucks and beyond. The Model 3—with a sticker price as low as $35,000, but currently only available in more expensive configurations—is Tesla’s first step into the mainstream. That plan only works if the company can figure out how to make exponentially more cars. And, as often happens with Musk’s aggressive goals, Tesla has repeatedly fallen short of its own manufacturing targets.
Tesla’s Production vs Tesla’s Targets
Bloomberg production estimate
Tesla’s initial production target
Target revised November 2017
Target revised January 2018
Source: Tesla, Bloomberg
If Tesla can’t figure out how to make more cars soon, it could open a lane for rivals from Detroit and overseas to establish the high-volume market for a $35,000 electric car—one that Tesla has had in its sights from its very beginning. Musk’s ambitions are big, and they all ride on meeting the unprecedented demand for the Model 3.
Methodology: Car companies register new batches of VINs before previous batches are depleted, so we’ve adjusted Method 1 accordingly to match Tesla’s quarterly reported production numbers. We’ve also made adjustments for Method 2 to reflect that vehicle deliveries don’t occur in perfect sequence. We’ve removed 400 VINs from the total database to account for Tesla’s test cars. Our final production estimate is an average of the two methods.
February 14, 2018 at 04:54AM