Factory Tour Notes

Factory Tour Notes

We were going to be driving through the SF area this past weekend, and I decided to visit the Tesla factory. A couple of emails to Tim McCann later, the tour was on. So on Friday, we arrived to the gates of the Fremont factory and checked in.

In short, the experience is fantastic, and I heartily recommend it to everybody, but don't hold your expectations too high. You probably won't see anything that you can't see in the National Geographics video.

The building is impressively massive from the outside, but the inside feels almost cramped. Everything is very tightly packed, and more space is taken by the already assembled bodies and the parts storage than the whole of the assembly line. The vast unused expanses must exist somewhere, but the tour doesn't cover them. The robot arms, while unmistakably red and impressive, are mostly hidden behind plastic curtains (makes sense with all the arc welding), and there's a lot of human involvement on all stages of production. One of my favourite moments of the tour happened when the guide said something to the effect of "the robot arms are fully autonomous, can wield multiple instruments, and are capable of precision of up to 0.1 mm". At that precise moment the tram was passing a worker who was attaching something to the business end of a robot arm with pretty liberal application of a common hammer.

Gone, too, are the smart trolleys that featured in the video. The tram passed a parking lot with several of those, and the guide mentioned that the new assembly lines are more efficient, and allow for holding patterns and whatnot. Well, maybe, but the smart trolleys were pretty symbolic, while the new lines look very traditional: there is a conveyor in the floor with pylons to hold the partially assembled cars. The sub-components like the dash or the drive-train are built by hand at what can best be described as desks. They may be XXI-century desks in some respect, I admit, but they look fairly traditional when you are moving along the row of them in a tram at 5 mph, trying to see as much as you can on all sides.

One of the dominating features of the factory is the supply of the unpainted Model S bodies. These are everywhere, arranged in what seems like every free bit of floor space capable of holding one. The visual stream when riding the train goes like: Model S body, office, 3 Model S bodies, sub-assembly line, another body, cafeteria, large room of bodies (20-30 of them), corridor, more bodies... Naturally, the visitors at this point have little to no chance to find out anything about the Model X, even if it assembled somewhere in the factory. Likewise, the tour doesn't seem to cover the battery assembly area or the indoor test track.

The start/finish area of the tour has a mini-museum housing the Roadster and Model S prototypes. It might be different for everyone, but I personally find the prototype body way sexier than the final product, especially the side indicators:

Photo not taken by me, but it shows the different shape and the original awesome-looking blinkers.

To be honest, I think I've been severely spoiled by the "Megafactories" video. The factory in the NG video looks futuristic and advanced, you see these brightly-lit spaces where robots take rolls of aluminium and massage them into the gorgeous cars with inhuman precision. The actual process is, let's say, a bit more down-to-earth. Still very much worth it.

Red Sage ca us | 2014年9月3日

In the original prototypes the 'sidemarkers' were operational vents. The vents were moved to the inside of the front wheelwells.

Similarly, the prototypes had turn signals at the front bumper, while the final version has large intakes on either front corner along with lighting.

The mirrors were redesigned so that you got a clear quarter panel at the leading edge of the A-pillar.

The glasshouse was redesigned to allow clear glass behind the rear doors instead of an opaque panel.

The charging port was moved from a round port on the side to a hidden spot behind the tail light.

Red Sage ca us | 2014年9月3日

Oh, yeah... The prototypes had framed glass windows, while the final design is frameless instead.

balabanshik | 2014年9月3日

These are all valid changes, but the side blinkers looked much better than the current triangular thing. At least to my eye. There's something very appealing about the floating T and the glowing glass line next to it.

eVader | 2014年9月3日

Loved the Alpha front clip as well.

Red Sage ca us | 2014年9月4日

Oh, yeah... The entire interior was changed -- thank, God.

Dramsey | 2014年9月6日

I found the factory tour disappointing. The stamping machines were not operating; we never saw the assembly of any of the sub-components (interior, motor/drivetrain, etc., and the view of the robotic assembly line you get from the National Geographic Video is much, much better than you get in person. In person all you see is a wall of translucent panels filling the factory, with blurry motion going on behind them. Occasionally a robotic arm holding a part rises about the level of the walls, then sinks down again.

We did see the smart trolleys and the final assembly, but it wasn't particularly impressive.

Honestly, I wouldn't recommend bothering unless you're a diehard fanboi or just happen to be driving by. The Nat Geo video is much better. | 2014年9月6日

Thanks balananshik for the excellent summary of your tour of the agreement factory.

karmamule | 2014年9月8日

Thanks for posting this @balabanshik, very interesting!

@Red Sage Oh yeah, the final interior is a major improvement. (understatement)

JeffreyR | 2014年9月8日

Have you seen the MB S Coupe's interior? WOW! Saw pics of it like this:

Even though red leather is not to my taste (at all!) it looks amazing. I wonder if the Model S/X will get interior upgrades when the Model ≡ comes out? Maybe I should do my own post on this...?

Red Sage ca us | 2014年9月8日

No Tesla Motors product will ever have quilted stitching or circular chromed vents.

I like RED a lot. That interior offends even me, though. Reminds me of...

And... Isn't this Bentley about the same...?

JeffreyR | 2014年9月8日

Like I said different color for me thank-you-very-much. But, I like the quilted texture. I think you could do much worse than a Bentley interior. I saw an article where they talked about the hand-stitched leather process. They create holes using the tines of a particular fork. Talk about putting the hand- in hand-stitched.

I'm not saying TM needs to be that anal, but I like the looks of the MB and Bentley.

(Just not in red!)

Red Sage ca us | 2014年9月8日

Tesla Motors interiors are engineered -- not crafted. They don't make horseless carriages. They don't sell luxury cars.

Guy2095 | 2014年9月8日

At least MB and Bentley have made it clear they know they are retro and have embraced it.

Guy2095 | 2014年9月8日

...what next, doilies and candle holders?

Brian H | 2014年9月9日

Little fridges for the Grey Poupon.

DTsea | 2014年9月9日

Lace curtains.

Cattledog | 2014年9月9日

Small dispenser in the cupholders for the whale oil.

shivasmith | 2014年9月9日

My factory tour is coming up in early October and I am *psyched*! :)

JeffreyR | 2014年9月15日

Thank goodness I have some lace hankies handy to wipe the pained tears off of my iPad so I can see to type out just how hurt my feelings are.

Bubba2000 | 2014年9月15日

Tesla uses Futurist Automotive from Australia to supply the eco friendly seats. They have a light weight space efficient design, very different than the Mercedes seats that are opulent to say the least. tesla will probably refine the design especially the back seats.

JeffreyR | 2014年9月15日

Better color for sure and... Golf clubs too

Are those swirly quilts?

Chrome rounds for everything! Is that air cooling for you groin? Hey at least part of it is chrome.

Ooh modern

Mmmm quilted...

JeffreyR | 2014年9月15日

Thanks for useful info @Bubba2000. I'll check out the Aussie seats. I wonder how long the minimalist/spartan look-and-feel will last. I don't think it needs to go over the top like the ones I found searching for "luxury car interior" (sample above). But I would like a more comfortable drivers seat (I'm 6'4" 265 lbs.). I like Mercedes seats from the older CL or S that were perforated. These are perforated but not the same one...

JeffreyR | 2014年9月15日

Looks like you're not the only that likes RED @Red Sage:

drewquinton | 2015年6月23日

Hi, this is obviously an old thread, but I hope someone gets a notification and replies.

I'm headed out to San Francisco in a couple of months and was wondering what it would take to get a tour of the factory. The original post says it only took "A couple of emails to Tesla" to get it set up. Could someone clarify? Who's Tim? And would he respond to an email from someone he doesn't know like myself?

DonS | 2015年6月23日

Just call the Tesla store in Fremont. If you are an owner, they will schedule a tour for you.

Brian H | 2015年6月25日

This site does not generate notifications. It just modifies the main forum display to indicate a new (unread) reply to a post.

FREE ENERGY | 2015年6月29日

Mid August, lets plan for a gathering :)

sbeggs | 2019年11月7日

Term paper flagged.