Inside Tesla’s Push to Reinvent How Cars Are Made [contributing reporter]

Scrambling to turn out its first mass-market electric car, the automaker set up multiple assembly lines and is changing production processes on the fly.

By Neal E. Boudette; Lauren Hepler contributed reporting and interviews from Fremont

FREMONT, Calif. — Just outside the north wing of Tesla’s sprawling electric-car plant here, an unusual structure has taken shape in the last few weeks: a tent, about 50 feet high and several hundred feet long, its taut gray canvas membrane supported by aluminum columns.

Its purpose is as notable as its hasty construction. The semi-permanent structure houses a third assembly line — part of a desperate effort to speed up production of the Model 3, the car that Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, has said is critical to the company’s financial health and immediate future.

Just two years ago, Mr. Musk envisioned 2018 as a breakthrough moment. Having established the brand’s cachet with high-end offerings — the Model S luxury sedan and the Model X sport-utility vehicle — Tesla would begin churning out more affordable Model 3 sedans. With a high-speed, high-tech assembly process, the company’s sales would soar more than fivefold, to half a million vehicles.

It hasn’t turned out that way.

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