In February 2012, the then rather small team at Tesla fixed a bug in the construction of the Model S within five days that jeopardized the start of deliveries planned for four months later. In a crash test, an element for absorbing impact energy in the front bumper turned out to be too unstable – and before the next test, it had to be strengthened to stay on schedule. “Take care of it,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and with the utmost commitment, including a night drive to the test center, the reinforcement came just in time to be installed in the electric car waiting there. Tesla delivered the first Model S to its customers in June.
5 days at Tesla, 6 months at Audi
This episode tells in a contribution from Monday Note on the platform Medium Philippe Chain, according to the information from 2011 quality manager at Tesla, who personally brought the crash elements, which were still warm in the oven, to the test. And exactly this approach of the electric car pioneer is what Tesla will probably secure for years to come from the direct rivals from the old world: According to Chain, what would be resolved with a single meeting at Tesla within five days would have been Renault or Audi triggered a six-month process on many hierarchical levels with blame.
Today’s consultant should know because he has already worked for Renault (before his Tesla days) and for Audi (after Tesla, for the development of the e-tron electric car). During his time at Tesla, there were only two hierarchical levels under Musk, he reported, at Audi he had to deal with four stages in development alone and two more in the overall organization. As a result, Tesla moves “incomparably faster than Audi, for example.”
“Fast Tesla culture stays ahead”
Interestingly, the head of Audi recently recorded that, unlike many observers, he does not see Tesla so far ahead. But the activities at the Volkswagen brand speak a different language: At the beginning of June, Audi announced the start of an additional team that is to develop a lighthouse electric car unhindered by corporate structures and in parallel with them – by 2024.
“There is no question that established car manufacturers incorporate agile methods into their processes,” writes Chain. However, their most important value is still clean processes with strict rules and methods – detaching from this culture could take a long time. Young engineers’ enthusiasm is quickly dampened when they encounter such a “bulky techno culture”, while Tesla will continue to do everything possible to stay ahead. “The lead has come to stay,” Chain concludes.