Tesla "Unboxed" Assembly Technique for New $25k Model

It’s called the “unboxed” assembly technique, and it does away with having a car (or a rectangular “box”) roll down a traditional assembly line past various stations where parts are added on. What Tesla plans to do instead is assemble different sections of a vehicle at the same time in dedicated areas of the factory and then bring a handful of large sub-assemblies together in the end.

This is said to potentially halve production costs and require around 40 percent less space than a traditional car factory with the same output. If true, this will play a big part in allowing Tesla to bring manufacturing costs down significantly and produce vehicles cheaper than ever.

If Musk pulls this off-a return high stock valuation and many smaller competitors are headed to the dustbin. BYD will utilize espionage to ferret out the process and copy it.


I’m not sure that is an “innovation”. Automotive final assembly has been assembly of a variety of subassemblies for over a century. The time consuming. labor intensive, bit is installing all the fiddly bits in the interior, and exterior trim. Unless he has a means of building the interior, then dropping the body on it?

Pic: American Motors plant in Kenosha, 65 or 66. entire powertrian: engine, trans, driveshaft, and rear axle, pushed up into the car body as a single sub-assembly.



Steve, you don’t understand. Musk thought of it, so it must be a New Innovation! All hail the genius Musk!!

BTW, isn’t the Model 3 battery/passenger compartment floor already a giant sub-assembly? I seem to recall Sandy Munro gushing over the “innovation” of it - attaching the carpet and seats (and perhaps a center console) to the battery before shoving it up into the body from the bottom.

It’s not like Henry Ford didn’t mate the body with the chassis on his assembly line 100 years ago.

Musk worshipers may now enter and tell me how this idea from Tesla is somehow different.



I dunno. Your picture shows AMC still had a vehicle on an assembly line. Musk assembles components into sections that are then put together.
Is the Musk method the AMC or an enhancement variation of the AMC method. Perhaps it is faster and saves beaucoup amounts of labor.

Canoo’s method is the same. A “skateboard” of wheels and battery packs that various body types can be bolted on.

The article doesn’t have a lot of details about how this might work, but I do have one question about this new assembly technique. One of the few things we do know about it is that Tesla advises it will significantly reduce the amount of space required to assemble cars. It’s almost always mentioned - right along with reducing costs, the reduction in space is noted.

Is space really that much of a constraint for car manufacturing, independent of costs?

To someone who doesn’t know much about auto manufacturing, it doesn’t seem like it would be that big a deal - especially if you’re building new factories. You build the building you need, on the size lot you need. Land costs, even building costs, wouldn’t seem to be very much of a major factor compared with other aspects of building a car (labor, heavy equipment and machinery, raw materials, etc.). Of the things that automakers have to confront and solve for, is “running out of room in the building” really that big of a problem? I can very much see a need for solving for faster, or cheaper, or simpler, or fewer errors - but is reducing the physical footprint of your assembly process something that’s all that critical?

Part of me suspects that this may be Musk trying to solve for what caused such problems at Fremont (when they had to stick lines in the parking lot under a tent), and not a general issue that automakers face a lot. But maybe? Does anyone know?

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space is a huge consideration in manufacturing. Incremental changes to space utilization drive long duration, step changes in FIXED OPERATING COSTS.

By using space more efficiently, a team can increase the utilization for any existing plant.

Subassembly in manufacturing is constantly evolving. value added steps in the earliest part of the process can cost quite a bit less per function than later in the process when negotiating around components which are already installed.


Ever try to change the starter in a vehicle? (Its easier when only the engine is assembled)
Ever try to paint your interior house walls? (Its easier when there is no flooring, furniture or household goods)
Ever try to relace your shoes after they are on? (Its easier when the shoe is by itself)

Subassembly allows lower cost value added content to be placed. By optimizing the interfaces (modularization) effectively, you can support only incremental additional costs with many modules.

Adding many of these contactor modules to subassembly (weather pack connectors) enables each module to stand alone in assembly.

Then, all you have to do is zip them together.


This is a (re)work zone.

By definition, adequate inputs, quality or late changes are the cause of these scenarios.

I worked in a vehicle plant where we did this intentionally because the buyer ticked an option on the sheet which was not able to be done on the line.

Example: Painting custom stripes on the vehicle.

We built the chassis to the point it could be painted, then shipped it to the painter. When it came back we reworked the content that was damaged (almost ALWAYS), prepped the remaining modules and finished the assembly…

In a tent in the parking lot.

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That single line doesn’t start with a raw engine block from the foundry, then machined, the other engine parts added, then on down a single line with each part individually added to the growing cluster of parts attached to the engine. That engine went down one assembly line, the trans another (at Borg-Warner in 66), and the rear axle another. Those subassemblys were then assembled together, and bolted into place in the body, which had gone through it’s own assembly and paint line (in Milwaukee) before starting down the final assembly line.

This is how AMC bodies arrived at the final assembly plant in Kenosha, after going down their own assembly line in Milwaukee.

I toured Kenosha assembly in 75.


Tesla solved the “fiddy bits” problem by replacing most of the buttons and switches with a touch screen and made the interior of their vehicles very sparse and minimalist with few parts.


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Part of me suspects nobody here is paying attention to today’s date.

Just sayin’


The agency that does car safety testing in Europe is on the warpath to have those touchscreens banned, as they are too distracting and hard for the driver to use. Michigan has banned using handheld devices while driving. What is the difference between putzing with a screen in your hand, and trying to scroll through menus on a larger screen pasted on the instrument panel?


haha! -Username checks out.

I agree. I’m not interested in a vehicle where I have to cycle through 3 levels of the touch screen to tune the radio. Anything I already have on my $200 smartphone, doesn’t need to be duplicated at great expense on the dashboard of my car.


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Here’s a Munro video where they pull the battery pack out of the cybertruck. It looks to speak to this idea, but in reverse process.

Basically, the seats and stuff are actually bolted to the ‘skateboard’ and then lifted into the body. Meaning that the body and the skateboard parts could be made simultaneously. So rather than everything in single file you are building in parallel. I would expect they learned a thing or two from building the Cybertruck and can then improve for the less expensive car.

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Or, it could be Musk the huckster, hucking a new huck, to juice the price of Tesla stock? “Oohhh,gamechanger” coos the Street. Remember Radio Shack’s recordable CD technology the company was touting around 88 or 89? Total vapor. But it got everyone chattering about RS, for a bit.


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You are right. I didn’t consider that. But this “unboxed” process has been in the news for over a year, so I suspect today’s date doesn’t figure into this.

And the statements from the article sound like classic Musk huckster. Hmmm. “Musker”. That could work.


I wonder if that extends to painting. Perhaps they’re not going to paint the less expensive car?

Apparently, auto painting is a technically challenging and complicated process - and it’s one of the main factors that drives how cars are assembled. They put the door on and then take them off again so that everything can be painted at once, for example. If you didn’t bother with painting, then not only would you save the costs of that step, but that would enable you to “unbox” the process in the way Tesla is describing. It would also directly cut down on the area needed for manufacture, since you’d eliminate the paint shop.


I was hoping to read about an arrangement with IKEA for flat packed Teslas. All you need are the included screwdrivers, allen wrenches, weird connectors, and the instructions for assembly that when unfolded cover a football pitch and is printed in 32 languages.


My touch-screen display is turned off!!