Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., speaks during an event. (Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

Elon Musk Vows to Fix Slow Customer Response

(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc. is getting overwhelmed by demand and isn’t responding to customers quickly, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said, acknowledging the pitfalls of progress his company has been making in producing more electric cars.

“Due to a large increase in vehicle delivery volume in North America, Tesla customers may experience longer response times,” Musk wrote in a tweet Wednesday. “Resolving this is our top priority.”

Elon Musk Vows to Fix Slow Customer Response
Elon Musk@elonmusk
Due to a large increase in vehicle delivery volume in North America, Tesla customers may experience longer response times. Resolving this is our top priority.

Sent via Twitter for iPhone.

View original tweet.

Musk had responded minutes earlier to a customer who said the process of taking delivery of a Model 3 sedan had been a “nightmare” and that his delivery adviser hadn’t been responding to emails. The CEO apologized and said he was “working on this exact issue right now.”

Tesla started taking orders for the Model 3 back in March 2016 and quickly accumulated hundreds of thousands of reservations. But the company kept the vast majority of those prospective customers waiting until late last year as it struggled to ramp up production. While the carmaker touted the vehicle’s $35,000 starting price, it still hasn’t started delivering the cheapest version of the sedan.

Tesla charged $1,000 for a Model 3 reservation and then $2,500 to configure their vehicle online and confirm their order. All reservation holders in the U.S. and Canada were invited to design their car and select options in late June.

The company announced days after opening the flood gates for orders that it achieved a target to produce 5,000 Model 3s in the last week of June. That late-month surge contributed to production exceeding deliveries for the quarter by more than 10,000 units.

Last month, Tesla forecast that it would produce as many as 55,000 Model 3s in the third quarter, from 28,578 in the prior three months, and said deliveries should outpace output.

Musk suggested there was plenty of momentum toward that goal in an email to employees on Friday, which was republished on Tesla’s blog. He wrote that the company was “about to have the most amazing quarter in our history, building and delivering more than twice as many cars as we did last quarter.”

On Tuesday, Musk tweeted that the company would limit the number of paint colors available so that production would be simpler for the company.

Elon Musk Vows to Fix Slow Customer Response
Elon Musk@elonmusk
Moving 2 of 7 Tesla colors off menu on Wednesday to simplify manufacturing. Obsidian Black & Metallic Silver will still be available as special request, but at higher price.

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Musk’s direct connection with customers on Twitter -- which is unique among auto CEOs -- has helped nurture brand loyalty while serving as a reminder that the CEO spreads himself thin, publicly managing tasks that could be delegated to his sales and service team. He’s lost several recent senior managers recently, including top executives in Tesla’s finance department and the heads of human resources and communications.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.