Robotic arms surround an incomplete sedan.
Enlarge / A Tesla Mannequin 3 is seen within the basic meeting line on the Tesla manufacturing unit in Fremont, California, in July 2018.

A couple of years in the past, Elon Musk tried to curiosity Apple CEO Tim Cook dinner in shopping for Tesla, Musk mentioned in a Tuesday tweet. “He refused to take the assembly,” Musk added.

In response to Musk, this occurred within the “darkest days of the Mannequin 3 program”—most certainly a while in late 2017 or early 2018. Musk not too long ago revealed that at one level early within the Mannequin 3 manufacturing course of, Tesla was “a couple of month” away from chapter

“The Mannequin 3 ramp was excessive stress & ache for a very long time — from mid 2017 to mid 2019,” Musk wrote in November. “Manufacturing & logistics hell.”

Whereas the Mannequin 3 was not Tesla’s first automotive, it was the corporate’s first try and construct a mass-market automobile—one that might promote for lower than $40,000 and due to this fact win a whole lot of 1000’s of consumers yearly. Whereas the automotive was cheaper, the gear required to fabricate it at a bigger scale was costlier than Tesla’s earlier manufacturing traces.

Musk had an bold plan to automate the Mannequin 3 manufacturing course of, utilizing robots for duties that have been historically executed by human staff. However issues did not work out the best way Musk hoped they’d. Constructing the mandatory robots was harder and costly than anticipated. Some did not work proper. So Tesla was in the end pressured to cut back its automation plans and construct a extra typical meeting line.

“Extreme automation at Tesla was a mistake,” Musk admitted in 2018. “People are underrated.”

Designing the Mannequin 3 and establishing its manufacturing line was so costly that Tesla’s survival trusted the Mannequin 3’s success. If Tesla wasn’t in a position to begin promoting the Mannequin 3 in quantity by mid-2018, it could have run out of money and sure couldn’t have serviced its multibillion-dollar debt.

Tim Cook dinner wasn’t

Apparently in some unspecified time in the future throughout this course of, Musk grew to become so anxious about Tesla’s survival that he thought-about promoting the corporate. Apple would have been a logical candidate. It was (and is) one of many largest corporations on the planet, with greater than $70 billion in money and short-term investments. It simply may have afforded Tesla’s $60 billion market valuation.

Apple and Tesla even have related design philosophies. Each are recognized for his or her vertical integration, creating their very own {hardware} and software program and promoting their merchandise on-line and in company-owned shops.

However in keeping with Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook dinner wasn’t . When Musk reached out to Cook dinner in 2017 or 2018, Cook dinner declined to even take a gathering on the topic.

On the time Musk contacted Cook dinner, Apple had been working for a number of years on a automotive mission referred to as “Undertaking Titan.” Titan reportedly started as a plan to construct an “Apple Automotive” however then got scaled back to creating self-driving software program to license to current automakers. On Monday, Reuters reported that Apple was as soon as once more engaged on creating its personal automotive.

With the benefit of hindsight, evidently shopping for Tesla in late 2017 would have been an excellent deal for Apple. Tesla’s market capitalization as we speak is 10 instances what it was in 2017. After the rocky rollout of the Mannequin 3 in 2017 and 2018, issues began to go extra easily. Tesla launched the Mannequin Y on schedule, constructed a manufacturing unit in China, and is now working to construct two extra factories in Texas and Germany.

Musk’s supply to Cook dinner wasn’t the primary time he thought-about promoting Tesla. In response to a 2015 biography of Musk by Ashlee Vance, Tesla had an identical disaster within the first quarter of 2013. The Mannequin S had been launched the earlier yr, however early gross sales have been so sluggish that Tesla’s survival was in query.

In response to Vance, Musk struck a “handshake deal” with Google founder Larry Web page in March to purchase the corporate for round $6 billion. However whereas the attorneys have been haggling over the main points, Mannequin S gross sales improved sufficient to get Tesla out of rapid hazard. Tesla posted an surprising revenue for the primary quarter, and Tesla’s inventory worth soared. Tesla remained unbiased.

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