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Tesla buys automated manufacturing firm as it struggles with production

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Another acquisition to help Tesla ‘build the machine that makes the machine’

Tesla has announced it’s buying Perbix, a private machining firm that makes automated equipment for factories. According to a report from CNBC, Perbix has been a Tesla supplier for almost three years, but the acquisition will allow the carmaker to bring the production of more parts in-house. Tesla described the deal as a step further in its long-stated ambition to “build the machine that makes the machine.”

The acquisition comes in the middle of a spell of bad news for Tesla production. Last week, the company reported a massive $619 million quarterly loss, and said it would no longer be able to meet its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 sedans per week in 2017. On Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk blamed the production problems on unspecified “bottlenecks,” with reports suggesting these might include an ongoing reliance on hand-made parts.

“With Model 3, either the machine works, or it doesn’t, or it’s limping along and we get short quite severely on output,” said Musk on an earnings call. In the third quarter of the year, Tesla built only 260 Model 3 sedans, well short of its forecast of 1,500 units.

Whether or not Perbix will help with this remains to be seen, but the acquisition is par for the course in Tesla’s ongoing focus on factory automation. A year ago, the carmaker bought German company Grohmann Engineering, creating a new division within the firm called Tesla Advanced Automation Germany that would take advantage of engineering talent in the country. That August, Musk said his ambition was to build factories so automated they looked like an “alien dreadnought.”

Tesla did not disclose how much it paid for Perbix, but financial filings show that owner James S. Dudley received 34,772 shares of Tesla stock, worth more than $10 million.