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Tesla curbs paint choices to simplify production

The electric car manufacturer's latest effort to streamline assembly comes amid mounting pressures.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Tesla is cutting down the number of paint choices it offers on its family of electric cars.

That's according to CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted early Tuesday morning, "Moving 2 of 7 Tesla colors off menu on Wednesday to simplify manufacturing. Obsidian Black & Metallic silver will still be available at special request, but at a higher price." The two paint choices are being removed from the online configurators for its Model S hatchback, Model X crossover SUV, and Model 3 sedan.

An email to Tesla reservation holders obtained by marque fan site Electrek says that in the future, the two paints will become "limited edition colors via special request at a cost of $2,000, only until Friday, Sept. 21, 2018."

Those with existing reservations will still have the ability to order those paint shades at current prices for a limited time.

Although the situation has been improving, production bottlenecks have continued to bedevil Tesla's new Model 3 sedan, with paint shop capacity and quality issues chief among them. 

tesla-model-3-obsidian-black-configurator

Obsidian black and metallic silver will be "special request" paints, at a premium price.

Tesla

In addition to being a pinch point slowing production, Tesla owners have taken to online forums to cite an unusual number of paint-quality and rust issues with their new Model 3s. In late August, Musk acknowledged that paint has been a challenge. In a reply to one such customer on Twitter, Musk admitted, "If need be, we're repainting/replacing entire sections of car or building whole new cars. Got to be done."

According to a June CNBC report, Tesla's paint shop has also had at least four fires, a very rare occurrence in modern auto factories.

Tesla's strategy to curb paint options is a time-tested technique to improve efficiency. Simplifying paint and vehicle option choices is a common strategy among all automakers to speed production, limit build complexity, lower costs, maximize quality and minimize inventory.

Amid increasing investor scrutiny, executive departuresfalling stock prices and growing concern around Elon Musk's eccentric behavior, the Silicon Valley automaker recently diverged from its build-to-order strategy and started to batch-assemble Model 3 units and offer them for general sale, prioritizing existing reservation holders.