It's no secret that high-tech automaker Tesla has faced all sorts of challenges lately. Founder and CEO Elon Musk's public behavior has been increasingly erratic -- leading to calls for him to step aside -- and the company has consistently missed production milestones for its Model 3, the car that was supposed to turn Tesla into a high-production, mass-market automobile manufacturer.
When the Model 3 was originally introduced to the public in 2016, Musk announced that Tesla would produce 100,000 to 200,000 of the cars in 2017.
The actual number? 2,685.
Increasing production of the Model 3 has been a top priority of Musk and Tesla for some time now, leading Musk to focus his attention "a lot" on it. In fact, as other car manufacturers such as Mercedes and BMW put their own focus on electric cars, mass production of the Model 3 is essential for Tesla's long-term survival.
In an effort to increase production efficiency, Tesla sent out an email yesterday to Model 3 reservation holders that it would eliminate two colors from its regular build choices:
"In order to increase our production, delivery and service efficiency, we will be removing Metallic Silver and Obsidian Black Metallic as paint options from our online vehicle configurators for Model S, Model X and Model 3. This will be effective on Thursday, September 13, 2018, after which Metallic Silver and Obsidian Black Metallic will be offered only as limited edition colors via special request at a cost of $2,000 only until Friday, September 21, 2018."
The paint process has been the source of a Model 3 bottleneck for some time. In April, a fire in Tesla's paint shot was reported to have temporarily stopped vehicle production and damaged two expensive sprayer robots.
While it's too early to see if dropping two colors from its regular paint options will enable Tesla to get production of its Model 3 in gear, the thousands of people on the Model 3 waiting list certainly hope the plan works. However, as Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelly Blue Book, points out:
"There is a huge part of Tesla that is simply presentation and not substance, and Elon is a master at messaging. The problem is the reality is starting to stack up, and that's a reality of accidents the cars have had, quality issues, and massive misses on Model 3 production numbers. You add all that up and there's a real question about whether this company can deliver what it promises."
Time will soon tell whether or not Tesla has what it takes to be a mass-market automaker and survive and thrive for decades to come.
The clock is ticking.