Tesla cites new ‘Autopilot’ hardware as reason thousands of cars didn’t reach buyers on time

What Tesla called “short-term production challenges” led to thousands of cars not making it to buyers on time, the firm said in a news release.

Tesla said it had hit its production target but missed deliveries because of production delays.

The production problems started in late October and continued through early December, Tesla said, as the firm moved to new hardware for Autopilot, its controversial autonomous-driving function.

Tesla in October had announced it would equip all new cars with Autopilot hardware that would eventually allow the vehicles to be fully self-driving.

The company’s Autopilot had become a target for critics after a man reportedly using the function — which allowed for limited autonomous driving with motorists supposed to be ready to take back control — was killed in a crash in May.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, Tesla produced 24,882 vehicles, bringing the total for the year to 83,922 — an increase of 64 percent over 2015 production, according to the company.

But because of the production delays, many of the cars were produced late in the fourth quarter, Tesla said.

“We were ultimately able to recover and hit our production goal, but the delay in production resulted in challenges that impacted quarterly deliveries, including, among other things, cars missing shipping cutoffs for Europe and Asia,” Tesla said.

In the fourth quarter, the Palo Alto company delivered about 22,200 vehicles, 12,700 of them the Model S sedan and 9,500 the Model X SUV. That brought the year’s total deliveries to 76,230, Tesla said.

“Time ran out before we could deliver all customer cars. About 2,750 vehicles missed being counted as deliveries in Q4 either due to last-minute delays in transport or because the customer was unable to physically take delivery.

“Even where these customers had already fully paid for their vehicle, we still did not count these as deliveries in Q4.”

Tesla also missed a target it had set earlier. The firm’s “Full Year 2015 Update” said “we plan to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 new Model S and Model X vehicles in 2016.”  So the final result for 2016 fell short of that target by about 4,000 to 14,000 vehicles.

By quarter’s end, about 6,450 vehicles were in transit to customers, and will be recorded as delivered in the first quarter of this year, Tesla said.

According to Tesla’s numbers, demand is increasing for the S and X models, with net orders from the fourth quarter at an all-time high, 52 percent higher than for the same quarter in 2015 and breaking the previous record, set in the third quarter of 2016, by 24 percent.


Photo: Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the falcon wing design of the new Model X SUV crossover in its debut from the floor of its plant in Fremont in September 2015. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)


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