At Code Conference 2016, when asked about how Tesla is going to manage to ship the Model 3 on time, CEO Elon Musk remarked on some of the things that had delayed previous shipments of the Model S sedan and Model X SUV:
One of the things that makes a car difficult, particularly if it's a new car, is that it's an integrated product with several thousand unique components. So we are somewhat at the mercy of whatever the slowest component is, whatever basically, if you go to tier two and three suppliers there end up being several thousand suppliers. So things move as fast as the least lucky and least competent suppliers.
You can think of any natural disaster you car to name, all of those things have happened to our suppliers.
Their factory has burned down.
There's been an earthquake.
There's been a tsunami.
There's been massive hail.
There's been a tornado.
The ship sank.
There was a shoot-out at the Mexican border.
No kidding. That delayed trunk carpet at one point. And, like, the Border Patrol wouldn't give us the truck because it had bullet holes in it. We just wanted our trunk carpet, like, it's pretty safe. There's no cocaine or anything, it's good. But that shut down the production line, as an example, for several days. That's the biggest issue, the supply chain stuff is really tricky.
Of course, shoot-outs at the Mexican border holding up parts from a supplier can only account for a small portion of the delays experienced by Tesla. As Musk himself has admitted, the 18-month delay of the Model X was in no small part due to hubris in over-designing the SUV. Thankfully, it seems that Tesla has learned from its mistakes and is being disciplined with the design and manufacturing of the $35,000 Model 3.
Still, a late 2017 volume production start for the Model 3 is highly ambitious. Only time will tell if Tesla can deliver on time and on budget.