Elon Musk is done patting himself on the back, for now. 

Having declared Tesla a "real car company" and congratulated his employees mightily for hitting Tesla's Model 3 production target of 5,000 cars by the end of June, Musk finally admitted he has only himself to blame for the nightmarish final weeks that led to Tesla meeting its goal.

"We were huge idiots and didn't know what we were doing," Musk said in a recent interview with Bloomberg, referring to the massive production delays resulting from an overreliance on robots on Tesla's assembly line. Musk and his team made a big bet that automation would help Tesla make more cars in a single month than it ever had before, only to have robots repeatedly fail, forcing the company to halt the entire production process to fix the problem.

"It's like you just took all the highways away from L.A. or something," Musk told Bloomberg, adding that Tesla's workers had to scramble to manually assemble car components. This led to Musk working so hard that he slept on the factory floor and wore the same clothes for five days. "Part of the problem is that the designing heads were naive about manufacturing," Musk said in the interview. "Just because we have something that works great in a simulation does not mean that it works great in reality."

Now, Tesla's production process includes areas that are completely automated, areas where employees work with no automation at all, and areas where humans and robots work together, he told Bloomberg. 

Though Musk believes keeping Tesla's production numbers stable has left the company with "one foot in hell," he's optimistic that Tesla won't face another existential crisis. "I believe Model 3 is the last bet-the-company situation," he said.

Published on: Jul 13, 2018