Tesla has been increasingly integrating its seat design and manufacturing for years now. The seats in the original Model S were one of the biggest weak points for owners used to luxury vehicles and the second-row seats in the Model X were a challenge.
Those issues pushed the company to integrate its seat design and manufacturing, which are generally outsourced in the industry.
A new report now gives some insights into Tesla’s manufacturing effort and the Model 3 seats.
Reuters published a report based on comments made by an unnamed former Tesla executive and some auto analysts.
They described “a commitment to vertical integration not seen in the auto industry for decades” and they give the example of Tesla’s seat assembly, which they are reportedly trying to automate.
After issues with suppliers for the Model S and Model X programs, CEO Elon Musk pushed for a redesigned of Tesla’s seats with manufacturing in mind and preparation for the expected higher volumes.
The former Tesla executive told Reuters:
“He saw the opportunity to do it differently and better. The short-term was a stop gap, but the long-term idea was to rethink the design of how a seat works to include how a seat is built.”
He added that Musk’s philosophy has always been “build it right and then figure out how to get the cost down.”
Industry analysts interviewed by Reuters for the report predicts that Tesla will go back to outsourcing its seat manufacturing effort.
Philippe Houchois, an auto analyst with the investment bank Jefferies, said:
“We don’t think Tesla’s vertically integrated business model can be scaled up as profitably and quickly as consensus thinks,”
Reuters says that Tesla refused to comment on their report.
To be fair, it certainly hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Tesla’s seat effort. The company recently had to issue a voluntary recall for Model X due to a problem with the second-row seats.
We also reported last month that Tesla had to change the seats in some early production Model 3 vehicles as it was working through some early production issues.
But overall, there’s no doubt that Tesla’s seat game has tremendously improved over the years.
The seats are my main complaint about my 2012 Model S, but the seats in the more recent versions of the car are on a completely different level in my opinion. I also found the Model 3’s seat to be equally as comfortable as the newer Model S during my short test drive.