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Hell for Elon Musk Is a Midsize Sedan

Will the Model 3 make Tesla a real car company?

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The Model 3 production line.

The Model 3 production line.

Photographer: Balazs Gardi for Bloomberg Businessweek

On July 1, Elon Musk went home to sleep. The chief executive of Tesla Inc. had been camping out at his electric car factory in Fremont, Calif., for much of the past week. He’d been sleeping on a couch, or under a desk, as part of a companywide push to get out of what he calls “production hell” by manufacturing at least 5,000 of Tesla’s new Model 3 sedans in a week. “I was wearing the same clothes for five days,” Musk says in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “My credibility, the credibility of the whole team,” was at stake.

Musk initially promised as many as 200,000 Model 3s by the end of 2017. To get there he planned an unprecedented investment in factory robots, calling the production line “the machine that builds the machine.” He’d said it would look like “alien dreadnought”—a manufacturing process so futuristic, unstoppable, and cost-effective that it would seem extraterrestrial.