The company, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., makes the Model S, while Tesla's Model X is arriving in spring 2015.
To make its cars, Tesla purchased the old New United Motor Manufacturing automobile manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif., which was jointly owned by General Motors GM and Toyota TM. At its peak, the plant was producing more than 500,000 cars a year, but GM pulled out of the joint venture in 2009, and Toyota in March 2010.
On May 20, 2010, Tesla announced it would buy a part of the NUMMI plant and would collaborate with Toyota on developing electric vehicles, production systems and engineering support. Tesla purchased some of the equipment in the plant from Toyota, for maybe as low as one-tenth of the original cost, and began refurbishing the factory.
"The entire factory is organized around synchronized manufacturing, which is typical for big manufacturing operations," said Gilbert Passin, Tesla's vice president of OEM & Re-Manufacturing, during a recent factory tour. The plant, which is home to some 2,600 employees on two separate floors, houses nearly 150 robots at various locations, which use some of Tesla's proprietary technology to manufacture the car, including everything from doors, to seats, to tires to the aluminum inside.
Tesla currently is using only about a quarter of the 5.5 million-square-foot plant, and intends to deliver more than 35,000 Model S units this year, which it announced on its fourth-quarter earnings call and reiterated on its first-quarter call. The factory comes complete with its own Supercharger station (one of the company's biggest) and retail store, in addition to manufacturing the Model S and the Model X next year.
Passin noted that Tesla is currently manufacturing about 750 to 800 cars per week, up from almost 700 cars per week as of the end of the first quarter. Even though production has increased sharply since the Model S started being delivered in the summer of 2012, it's too early to think about another factory just yet. "While we are expanding our factory capacity to support increased Model S production later this year and the introduction of Model X next year, our goal is to deliver more than 35,000 Model S this year," said Simon Sproule, Tesla's VP of Communications in an email.
Here's a look inside Tesla's factory where every car is built to order, either via by man, or by machine, or by both.