Elon Musk: ‘I think I do have like an issue with, uh, time’

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

At Tesla's annual shareholder meeting in Mountain View, California, on Tuesday, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk responded to a question about missed Model 3 production targets with, in part, a story about his childhood.

"I think I do have like an issue with, uh, time. It's been true since…" Musk says, interrupting his own sentence.

"I have a condition, I dunno. My brother used to, like, when we were catching the bus to school, he would lie to me about the time. And he would always say it was earlier than it actually was and then I would get there slightly after that — and then we would actually be able to catch the bus," says Musk about his older brother, Kimbal. "So, you know..."

During the shareholder meeting, Musk says it is "quite likely" Tesla will hit a weekly Model 3 production rate of 5,000 cars "by the end of this month."

That production rate comes after the company has set and missed production goals for the Model 3 vehicle. In April, when Gayle King, host of "CBS This Morning," did an interview with Musk at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, Tesla was doing just north of 2,000 cars per week.

"This is something I am trying to get better at," Musk says at the shareholder meeting.

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The Tesla boss further explained his tendency to set and miss production targets by saying he is a "naturally optimistic person."

"I kind of say when I think it can occur, but then I am typically optimistic about these things. But maybe, hopefully less optimistic over time. It pretty much always happens but not exactly on the time frame," Musk says.

Were he not an optimistic person, the billionaire entrepreneur says he "would not have probably done cars or rockets." In addition to running Tesla, Musk is the boss of aerospace company SpaceX.

Musk also says he is working to improve his ability to provide accurate estimates of when tasks will be completed and goals met. "I am trying to recalibrate these estimates. Um, yeah. I am trying to recalibrate as much as possible," the Tesla boss says.

"I mean I'd probably put some sandbag on future dates, that's probably wise," Musk says.

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Ramping up the production of Model 3 vehicles has been testing the entire organization, Musk says, and the process as taxed the team.

"It's insanely hard just staying alive, just want to be clear, it's really difficult," says Musk. "We have had people at Tesla who have sort of worked like 60 days straight. We had to basically force them to go home. Like, 'You have got to got to go home, man. You are going to keel over.' And then he snuck back in to work. We were like, 'Dammit, we said go home!'"

For him personally, Musk says the recent efforts to increase production have been some of the hardest he has ever experienced.

"I have to tell you, like the most excruciating, hellish several months I have maybe ever had — and a lot of other people at Tesla — but I think we are getting there," Musk says.

In addition to explaining his own optimism-fueled tendency to be overly aggressive in setting deadlines, Musk underscored what he considers the unique quality of car the Tesla is producing.

"We are doing everything we can to make it is as good as possible, as fast as possible. This is going to sound maybe a little cheesy but at Tesla we build our cars with love. Like, we really care," says Musk. "I think at a lot of other companies they are built by the marketing department and the finance department and there is no soul.

"We're not perfect, but we pour our heart and soul into the product and we really care."

See also:

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