The Tesla Model 3 appears to be a tale of two cars.
Elon Musk's vision of an electric vehicle for the masses pairs innovative electronics and interior material choices with basic car construction that puzzles the likes of Sandy Munro, whose Auburn Hills firm reverse-engineers products, including cars.
The engineers at Munro & Associates have been tearing into a Model 3 as they prepare an analysis. The firm bought the car in January from a private seller for $72,000.
Munro recently showed a group of journalists and analysts with the Automotive Press Association around the body of a Model 3 stripped of its components, with a sleek, still-assembled black Model 3 sitting nearby.
"This is all dinosaur technology," Munro said.
Lots of steel, less aluminum, which makes the car heavier than might be expected. Munro also said the different types of welds surprised him.
"They don't have a consistent way of doing things," he said.
At various places on the body, white writing pointed out what Munro's team found to be unusual:
"Too many parts."
"Weld flanges too big."
"Unusual to bolt here."
But Munro & Associates also found much to like about the Model 3. A poster shows what is referred to as the Skateboard, an area that holds the car's lengthy battery pack, calling it the "brilliance of the Tesla Model 3."
Arrows pointed to parts of the diagram touting "excellent front suspension for a great drive," "5 bar link for sport car handling," and "the electronic module center, we are shocked by the advanced integration and advanced manufacturing techniques."
As Tesla CEO Musk's ability to deliver on production promises for the Model 3 have consistently fallen short, the reasons could have much to do with basic car making. Musk, who famously described sleeping at his factory in Fremont, Calif., has said maybe the company used too many robots.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at AutoTrader.com, suggested that the issues highlighted by Munro's presentation appear to answer questions about Tesla's production.
"This illustrates why Tesla has trouble building the Model 3 and why we're hearing reports of poor quality," Krebs said, noting that the company could have benefited from more automotive expertise. "They know how to do electronics very well. Detroit, Germany, Japan really know how to do the basic building blocks of a car."
Tesla issued a statement about Munro's conflicting impressions about the Model 3, noting recent improvements:
"The primary car evaluated by Munro was built in 2017. We have significantly refined our production processes since then, and while there's always room for improvement, our data already shows that Model 3 quality is rapidly getting better. … Since we began shipping Model 3 last year, we have been very focused on refining and tuning both part and body manufacturing processes."
Some of the more innovative aspects of what Tesla does were shown by Stephen Handley, a senior consultant for Munro. Handley has years of experience with trim work through both Ford and General Motors.
He told a Free Press reporter to place his hands on a floor mat, which was sitting on a table, and push. The mat barely moved. Rather than relying on a hook or something similar to keep the floor mat in place, the Tesla solution used a unique material underneath.