Musk unhappy with Cybertruck’s poor quality, calls for Lego
Aug 08, 2023
Jonathan M. Gitlin - Aug 24, 2023 2:20 pm UTC
Elon Musk is not impressed with the build quality of Tesla's new Cybertruck. On Wednesday, the Tesla CEO told followers on social media that he "just drove the production candidate Cybertruck at Tesla Giga Texas," as the angular pickup slowly moves from concept to something real people might be able to drive. But workers at the Tesla factory may be in for sleepless nights in the coming weeks and months, judging by a company-wide email first seen by the Cybertruck Owner's Club.
"Due to the nature of Cybertruck, which is made of bright metal with mostly straight edges, any dimensional variation shows up like a sore thumb," Musk wrote in the email. Indeed, every image we've seen of the Cybertruck thus far—including those posted by Musk to his social media account yesterday—shows shockingly inconsistent build quality, particularly at the front of the vehicle where multiple stainless steel panels meet at angles that remind some of a deli slicer.
"All parts for this vehicle, whether internal or from suppliers, need to be designed and built to sub 10 micron accuracy. That means all part dimensions need to be to the third decimal place in millimeters and tolerances need to be specified in single digit microns. If LEGO and soda cans, which are very low cost, can do this, so can we," Musk wrote, referring to products that are the result of decades of constant manufacturing improvement.
"Customers may not visit showrooms with gap gauges, but they do unconsciously register the harmony and "one-ness" of a car with gaps so narrow that it looks like a seamless shape. It's a visual manifestation of precision, care, and thus, quality," wrote Bob Lutz, who at various times ran each of the big three US automakers.
Publicizing one's ability to build cars with small, consistent panel gaps is a point of pride for automakers, particularly those at the premium end of the market. Few brands demonstrated the importance of that perceived quality to customers more than Lexus, which in 1992 made a point of showing off just how consistent its manufacturing was with the aid of a ball bearing in a widely remembered TV commercial.
This is not the first time Musk has admonished his workers to build his cars more precisely. In 2018, perhaps embarrassed by constant media reports of wildly inconsistent panel gaps, Musk emailed his workers to tell them, "Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don’t match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong."
Judging by ongoing complaints from new owners at forums like the Tesla Motor Club and the company's poor showing in JD Power's Initial Quality Surveys, Tesla might want to start including its own measuring tape with each new car because five years after that first email, it appears the OEM's problems have not gone away.