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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You won't find many videos of Tesla's assembly line that aren't carefully-controlled shots. In fact Elon's factory tour with Marques Brownlee is the only video I've seen where we get to actually see the line itself with workers. What a disaster (compared to VW's line). Unorganized, messy, unsafe. It's also interesting that at Tesla you won't see any employees over 40. At VW you see apprenticeship in action - industry veterans working side-by-side with young hires. Also - spotless and organized.

VW Factory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEgDowDxFd0
Tesla Factory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mr9kK0_7x08
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
to be fair, the Tesla video is 3 years old. It might well have changed significantly since.
Fair enough. However they still have their tent-based GA line in Fremont (based on recent drone footage). Company culture at that scale doesn't change fast.
 

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Fair enough. However they still have their tent-based GA line in Fremont (based on recent drone footage). Company culture at that scale doesn't change fast.
For what it is worth, here is my take as a former automotive manufacturing (and controls systems) engineer...

The issue that I care most about is safety and automotive manufacturers have an ethical (and, arguably, legal) obligation to have a solid, well-maintained and well-documented manufacturing process. It takes only a slight oversight and surprisingly little carelessness to unknowingly send out tens or hundreds of thousands of cars to consumers that have severe safety defects that can kill or injure.

From published reports regarding Tesla's Fremont operations (some being quite recent), the working conditions seem, well, less-than-ideal still which goes directly to the safety of the vehicles. Human error is definitely a byproduct of substandard working conditions. To the best of my knowledge, the GA "tents" are not even climate controlled which is a significant issue on the surface.

Tesla also has a CEO in Musk that is perfectly fine with shipping "beta" safety-critical control software to consumers - which is never acceptable. It says quite a bit about their internal practices.

Given this evidence, I am deeply concerned about the safety of Tesla owners today (including a few of my colleagues who are Tesla owners) and the roadway/non-roadway participants coming into contact with these vehicles. I hope that I am wrong because I do not want to see anyone hurt, but where there is smoke, there is fire in this industry.

I am not trying to influence anyone's car buying decisions, but it is my ethical obligation to the public as an engineer to point out these issues.

Sincerely,

Adam J. Cook
 

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After observing the ID.4 Zwickau plant in operation, I am even more impressed with VW's operation to produce Golfs. This is not a criticism but perhaps an indication of where the Zwickau plant is in it's development..

My guess is the process to produce ID.4s has not reached the development level that the Golf manufacturing process has reached as a result of being a smaller, less established plant and different/newer processes. My guess is that VW will continue to make major additional investments in the ID.4 vehicle and manufacturing process over the next years.

I must say that Tesla plant and Tesla's manufacturing cannot be compared to major auto manufacturers. They are not in the same league. This shows in the build quality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
To be clear - it's not my intention to "bash Tesla" but to highlight general assembly differences. That said, as a customer, I feel more confident in the ultimate product if the assembly process is mature like VW's. A relative young company like Tesla (or Lucid, Canoo, Aptera, etc.) is going to repeat many mistakes along the way to assembly maturity. Not sure I want to pay the price of those assembly growing pains however.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Here's another example, also from VAG, assembling the Škoda ENYAQ iV (essentially the same as the ID.4 with different styling):


Looks just as clean/organized as Wolfsburg/Zwickau. We also get to see more of the MEB platform here - very cool. MEB is going to allow massive scale for VAG compared to bespoke custom model designs. VAG is a player for sure. Maybe the player in the not too distant future.
 

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To be clear - it's not my intention to "bash Tesla" but to highlight general assembly differences. That said, as a customer, I feel more confident in the ultimate product if the assembly process is mature like VW's. A relative young company like Tesla (or Lucid, Canoo, Aptera, etc.) is going to repeat many mistakes along the way to assembly maturity. Not sure I want to pay the price of those assembly growing pains however.
Yes. I want to make this point clear as well.

I have zero interest in starting a Tesla bashing party or some kind of flame war but, as a professional engineer, I do believe that public education in proper safety-critical issues is essential to my ethical obligations - which is what I am expressing here.

A more informed public is a safer public.

Obviously, all automakers have, at times, had to perform safety-related recalls. However, there is a difference between Good Faith oversights and Bad Faith negligence - and signs of Bad Faith issues should be raised.

I hope that Tesla is successful as it does not benefit me personally at all to see any manufacturing business struggle, but I want reforms from Tesla and it is clear that they need it in some respects.

We all share the same roadways.

I do not trade stocks and I hold no financial interest, in, for or against, any automaker.

Sincerely,

Adam J. Cook
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
A huge difference as well is the role of apprenticeship (or the lack thereof).

In Germany, for example, the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) was passed in 1969 which regulated and unified the vocational training system and codified the shared responsibility of the state, the unions, associations and the chambers of trade and industry. You can see the application of this law quite clearly in German assembly lines where industry veterans work side-by-side with new young hires. This results in a "deep bench" of skilled labor.

In America, by contrast, we embraced hyper-capitalism and shareholder profit maximization with all the side-effects of that decision (both good and bad - mostly bad). As a result our unions have been gutted and domestic labor outsourced. That combined with not investing in our domestic workforce to ensure a skilled/knowledgeable pipeline of labor has put the US in a very tenuous position on the world stage.
 

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^^^- Then, we wring our collective hands about the despair of hollowed-out towns and opiate disorder wastelands. Volkswagen took a neutral to positive public posture on the Chattanooga plant. Then, the politicians got involved.
 

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A huge difference as well is the role of apprenticeship (or the lack thereof).

In Germany, for example, the Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) was passed in 1969 which regulated and unified the vocational training system and codified the shared responsibility of the state, the unions, associations and the chambers of trade and industry. You can see the application of this law quite clearly in German assembly lines where industry veterans work side-by-side with new young hires. This results in a "deep bench" of skilled labor.

In America, by contrast, we embraced hyper-capitalism and shareholder profit maximization with all the side-effects of that decision (both good and bad - mostly bad). As a result our unions have been gutted and domestic labor outsourced. That combined with not investing in our domestic workforce to ensure a skilled/knowledgeable pipeline of labor has put the US in a very tenuous position on the world stage.
The US had actually set up Manufacturing USA under the Obama Administration which was supposed to, in part, boost apprenticeship programs in the US, but frankly, it was pretty much a failure regrettably. I really wanted to believe in at the time (circa 2015), but I pretty much regard it as a waste even as the US continues to dump money into it.

That said, the good news is that I increasingly see US manufacturing firms taking a more "apprenticeship" approach with their communities on their own, if not an actual apprenticeship system outright.

Certainly, it is not anywhere close to where it should be (as you correctly noted) and, so far, it seems to regulated mostly to smaller and medium manufacturers (as opposed to larger firms) that I encounter in my industry travels. I think manufacturing firms are having to turn to it out of desperation now.

I was an was a welding and machining apprentice on the South Side of Chicago before going into engineering school and I found the experience extremely beneficial.

Sincerely,

Adam J. Cook
 

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The good folks at This Old House started their own building trades apprenticeship program in 2016 given that all the trades in our area are depleted. Most every trade vehicle you see these days has a "help wanted" sticker (of course compounded by more money to be made in Covid-unemployment benefits than working ...).
As someone who grew up and worked in a family construction business, through engineering school, I'm particularly concerned with the eroding skills and labor pool.
 
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