Tesla is now producing more cars at its Fremont factory than when it was the NUMMI factory operated in partnership by GM and Toyota. And it’s only the beginning. CEO Elon Musk says it could grow production by about 50%.
It was chaos before it became Tesla Factory
New United Motor Manufacturing, better known as NUMMI, has a long history – and not always a good one.
Before it was NUMMI, it was a car assembly plant established in Fremont, California, by General Motors way back in 1962. Interestingly, workers at the factory were “considered the worst workforce in the automobile industry in the United States” by the workers’ own union representative. Employees were drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana on the job. There was a real disconnect between workers and management – such that any disciplinary attempt was met by strikes or even “sabotage” on the assembly line, like putting soda bottles inside the door panels to create rattles.
In the early 1980s, it got so out of control that “near chaos” reigned at the factory.
In 1982, GM closed the factory altogether, but it quickly reopened in 1984 through a partnership with Toyota and became NUMMI. Toyota implemented its own production system and continuous improvement processes – resulting in significant improvements in quality and output.
Between 1984 and 2010, NUMMI produced over 8 million vehicles and peaked at a production of 428,633 vehicles in 2006. However, Toyota had many other factories in the US by 2010, and NUMMI was the only one with a unionized workforce.
GM and Toyota ended up closing the factory and selling it to Tesla in 2010.
Tesla Fremont Factory
The factory showed its age, and it wasn’t the most efficient as it was Frankensteined together as it grew over the years.
But Tesla couldn’t pass on the deal because of the terms, which consisted of Toyota investing $50 million in Tesla and the latter giving back $42 million to the former for the factory. Tesla basically ended up with a factory and $8 million to invest in it.
It wasn’t easy. After years of headaches, sweat, and literally unfortunately some blood, Tesla eventually managed to ramp up production of electric vehicles at the factory, where it produces its entire lineup: Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X.
Earlier this year, Tesla Fremont Factory even became the most productive car factory in the US.
Earlier this week, Elon Musk held a companywide meeting at the factory, and Electrek obtained a recording.
During the meeting, Musk acknowledged the milestone of becoming the largest factory in North America per volume of production:
We are now the biggest car factory in North America. That’s pretty sick. Sometimes people are surprised, like “Tesla is making cars in the Bay Area?” Yeah not only we do, but we have the biggest car factory in North America.
He added that the Tesla Fremont factory has also exceeded the production from the Toyota and GM days:
We also recently exceeded the number of cars produced from when it was a Toyota/GM factory, and I think we even have the potential to beat that number by 50%.
The CEO has mentioned on several occasions lately that he believes there is still room to grow at the factory, which is already extremely busy with around 10,000 employees and running out of space.
Musk expects that efficiency to improve at the factory once Tesla moves current vehicle production to 4680 battery cells and structural battery packs, but that is still at least a year or two away. He specified that the automaker needs to achieve volume production at Gigafactory Texas first.
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