Tesla has had something of a meteoric rise in the automotive industry. They’ve gone from the relatively obscure but “cool” fringe project of an irresistible billionaire to being the world’s best-selling electric car brand in virtually no time at all. In the past year or so, however, on top of other challenges that the entire industry has been experiencing, Tesla has come under fire for one particular promise that it seems to be unable to keep — the vehicle delivery dates!
This will be the focus of today’s blog. Why is it that so many customers are being continually frustrated by shifting delivery dates on their purchased Tesla cars?
Background: What Exactly is the Problem with Delivery Dates?
Just imagine the scene, you’ve gone onto the Tesla website to place your order for a new Model 3 Standard Range Plus. It’s your first electric car and you can’t wait to receive your Tesla after being thrilled with the model that you took for a test drive. The existing inventory didn’t appeal to you, as you wanted something customized exactly to your specifications. That’s quite understandable, so you’ve input the details and are ready to move forward.
It’s just then that you notice a rather disturbing detail. The estimated delivery date for your new car is June…but right now it’s October. How can it take 8 months for your car to be delivered? What’s more, that’s the estimated time, so it could in theory take even longer if something were to go wrong at some point on the way.
This, in a nutshell, is the experience of many customers currently looking at Teslas on the company’s website. The most frustrating part for many customers is that making even one change to the specification is what can set the delivery date back months at a time. A good example can be seen with the Model 3 that we mentioned in the above scenario.
When we opt for the Standard Range Plus, the delivery date is estimated in June 2022. When we switch to the Long Range model, that gets revised to December 2021, and if we opt for the top-of-the-line Performance model, it gets bumped up to November 2021.
In the below table you’ll find a list of estimated delivery dates in the US for other Tesla cars at the time of writing.
When it comes to these dates, it’s not just the distance of the date from today that is the problem for buyers. If they have seen the estimated delivery date being months away and still proceeded to make a Tesla account, process the payments and paperwork and whatnot, then it means that the distance of the delivery date was not a factor that put them off buying.
What does irk many buyers, however, is the fluctuations in the date as they are waiting. One Twitter user asked, “Question for Tesla owners. Is it normal for the delivery date to change frequently? Literally every day there’s a revised delivery window.”
Another user was more scathing in a tweet directed at Musk personally as well as Tesla:
“For all of your technological brilliance your vehicle delivery forecasts are a debacle and an embarrassment to your brand. Six months to deliver a M3 and seven different “get ready for delivery in two weeks” notices only to find out more delays.”Twitter, danammiller, 14th October 2021
That tweet was even accompanies with the hashtag #debacle.
It raises an important question about the reliability of the delivery date and what is affecting it. We’ll explore that in more detail in the next section of our blog.
So, depending on which model you chose and which variant of that particular model, you will have a delivery date. It’s important to note, as Tesla does, that this delivery date is an estimate, first and foremost. Official information from Tesla tells us, in answer to the question “When can I expect to take delivery?”:
“Delivery timing varies by model, location and current production availability. For more immediate delivery, check existing inventory in your area.”Tesla.com FAQs
Telsa’s explanation for delivery estimates is a more roundabout way of saying that you should regard the given estimated delivery date as accurate based on the current information available, but also to be aware that things can change.
In other words, the estimates are accurate based on the circumstances of the time, but as circumstances change, so too can your estimated delivery date.
The tweets that we mentioned above are a clear indication that things can and do go wrong. It’s easy to point the finger at Tesla and say it’s down to their own incompetence, but is it really? In the next section we’ll take a closer look at the specific factors that determine that final delivery date.
In Tesla’s official information, they mention three key factors: model, location and current production capacity. Let’s consider each of these in turn.
Clearly, some models will have greater demand than others, as will certain variants of certain models. Demand for the very top-end (and expensive) won’t typically be in as high volume as the more affordable models, for instance and the current estimated delivery dates bear out that reality with the exception of the Model X Plaid which will take a long time to deliver. It’s natural that in-demand models will take longer than others.
It’s understandable that Tesla might prioritize delivery to its most high-volume and lucrative market sectors before others, but there’s the added time that comes with transportation of new goods from the Fremont factory to various customers around the US. If you are expecting deliveries to Alaska or Hawaii, too, you might expect to wait somewhat longer than someone buying in LA.
This factor is undoubtedly the most important of the three that Tesla mentioned, and is also the more complex, as well as the most vulnerable to global affairs and circumstances. As we all know, the Tesla is an electric car, and that means it has a huge lithium-ion battery pack forming the bulk of the underside of the car. The batteries are huge, heavy, expensive and very advanced.
Though they’re assembled in Tesla’s many gigafactories around the world, the supply chain for something like a Tesla battery is truly mammoth. Model 3 battery cells, for instance, are made in the US, but for other models they are made in Japan. Materials for the batteries also come from all over. Lithium, for instance, is imported from Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, and cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
With materials coming from all over, even the slightest disruption to the supply chain will cause delays in production, and with orders piling up, a delay now creates a ripple effect that impacts people all down the line.
Another big issue in the supply chain nowadays is the semiconductor shortage that has been crippling automotive production all around the world for the past two years since COVID-19 hit, and may continue to do so for years to come.
More recently, we are seeing further impacts on the global supply chain from a shortage of truck drivers, to agricultural and factory workers and other labour shortages. It’s not just the components, but the human and automotive infrastructure we need to transport them that is being severely impacted by recent events.
Is it Really Tesla’s Fault?
Clearly there are elements of this problem that are Tesla’s fault. If your car is manufactured and released from the factory but then takes a month or more to get from there to your door then there’s a clear isssue in Tesla’s logistics, and that’s on them.
However, a shortage if semiconductors caused by a global pandemic and compounded by fires in Japanese factories where backup stocks were being made is absolutely not Tesla’s fault and those factors continue to be beyond their control.
In the future they might make changes to their supply chain to help protect against such instances from happening, but supply chain issues — which are the biggest bugbear and cause of distress to Tesla’s production woes — are not something we can simply blame Tesla for.
Having said all that, perhaps Tesla invites criticism based on delivery dates because of Musk’s arrogance in promising things that just can’t be delivered, especially when there’s a supply chain crisis.
Musk says they’ll have 100-year batteries, and self-driving cars, and other outlandish things and they don’t happen, and perhaps this fuels the fire of people’s resentment when it comes to delivery dates. It’s just another broken “promise” by Tesla — even when it clearly says it’s an estimate, not a promise.
If you are currently waiting for your Tesla, then there are certain signs you can look for. These are only rumored, currently, but there is some indication that, for instance, that the appearance of a confirmed serial number for your Tesla is a good sign that things are moving along. At least there’s a unit that has rolled off the production line, so that part is over at the very least.
On top of that, Tesla does send out notices via email and SMS messages as to when your confirmed delivery date will be, but as the above tweets indicate even these are not 100-percent reliable. In the end, you just have to be patient and play the waiting game.