Tesla CEO Elon Musk has aspirations of vertically integrating his companies as much as possible, trying to avoid traditional suppliers wherever he can.
While Tesla has been successful in developing things like their electric motors in-house, the company still relies on others for many of the components that go into its cars.
The Model 3 was expected to be the next step in reaching Tesla’s vertically integrated future, but it turns out to remain dependent on a large number of parts from outside sources.
CHECK OUT: Parts order for Tesla Model 3 cut by 40 percent starting in December: report (Oct 2017)
According to analysts from Oppenheimer & Co. cited in a Fortune article last October, delays by some of those suppliers were one of the reasons Model 3 has production had not ramped up as quickly as Musk promised.
Some of the problem suppliers appear to have been fired, while others have actually cut output of their Tesla parts so as not to over-deliver.
We decided to examine Bill of Lading records to see exactly which companies Tesla is receiving parts from.
One of our first discoveries was that Tesla receives Model 3 windshields from Saint Gobain Mexico.
This was confirmed by a shipment record that shows a “Tesla windshield pre-assembly line” going from Star SRL in Italy to Saint Gobain in Mexico, as well as by the markings on a Tesla Model 3 we were able to examine recently.
The “Aero” wheel covers on the Model 3 are a unique part: They snap onto an 18-inch aluminum wheel, while virtually every other brand puts plastic wheel covers on smaller steel wheels.
The covers are produced by Guangzhou Jinzhong Auto Parts, which also produces wheel covers for other manufacturers such as Ford.
This isn’t the only part sourced from a Ford supplier. The accelerator pedal in the Model 3 comes from KSR international, and appears to use the same set of sensors as those found in the current F-150 pickup truck pedal.
According to an eBay posting, the Model 3’s 18-inch wheels are manufactured in Mexico, but the supplier hasn’t been identified at this time.
Moving around the car, we find the LED taillights on the Model 3 are built by Osram Sylvania in New Hampshire, and the LED-driver circuit boards for those lights are supplied by Jabil Circuit in China.
The only clue for the other lights on the car is that the headlight mounting brackets are produced by Lek Sun Manufacturing in Malaysia.
That company also produces similar brackets for BMW and Mercedes.
It’s well-known that the lithium-ion battery pack for the Model 3 is made at the joint Tesla-Panasonic Gigafactory in Nevada, but the high-voltage controller is made by Jabil Circuit in Hong Kong and shipped to the Gigafactory, according to import records from November 2017.
Jabil also manufactures other components for the high-voltage battery system, including the bus bars to connect modules in the battery pack.
The battery cooling assembly for the high-voltage pack comes from OSE Group in France, and finishing for the part is completed by Valeo Engine Cooling.
Despite the large custom-built pack, the Model 3 still has a small conventional battery to power 12-volt accessories like lights, the touchscreen, fans in the ventilation system, and other traditional electronic components inside and outside.
Tesla received its first shipment of 12 volt batteries for the Model 3 on July 10th. They are using a B19 Battery made by AtlasBX. This is similar to the Model S/X 12v batter. The part number for the Model 3 12v battery is: 1129182-00-A. It weighs around 11 kg.
— Bozi Tatarevic (@hoonable) December 12, 2017
Import records show this battery is built by AtlasBX in South Korea, a company that manufactures low-voltage batteries for other carmakers, including General Motors.
The fixed front-brake caliper on the Model 3 appears to be similar to the 4-piston Brembo caliper used on the Model S, but the rear is a floating design that is both different from and cheaper than the one used on the Model S.
The marking on the brake pad shows “FER 9206G”, which returns a listing that states that it is manufactured by Federal-Mogul Motorparts.
Steering on the Model 3 is very similar to what has been implemented on Tesla’s older models, but it employs a redundant steering motor configuration—for additional safety and likely future autonomy.
This steering motor is manufactured by Taigene Electric Machinery in Taiwan and is also being used on Model X crossovers equipped with their HW2.5 Autopilot package.
Tooling to build the car’s shell and components is just as important as the parts themselves that go into the car. An mport record from June 2017 indicates the tooling for the floor panel of the Model 3 was produced by Eson Precision Engineering in China.
The General Assembly Line installed in the Fremont plant was produced in Italy and multiple shipments for that line were delivered during the same month, but exact supplier names were not available from the records we examined.
Although the company and Musk often present the Tesla Model 3 as a revolutionary car with a revolutionary assembly process, the parts that go into it are often entirely similar to those that go into more traditional cars.
Tesla also seems to be using a few suppliers that have not traditionally sold to automotive manufacturers that build cars for the US market.
It’s possible that could explain some of the early teething issues with suppliers and their challenges in delivering parts.
We’ll be monitoring the import records to see what changes in the future and whether new suppliers appear.