The Model S takes shape with sheets of aluminum "placed in a hydraulic press machine and stamped into 3-dimensional fenders, hood panels, doors and roofs," according to Tesla. "Stamped aluminum saves about half the weight of steel and the decrease in weight enables us to increase overall vehicle efficiency."
The plant, purchased in 2010, is 5.3 million square feet. From 1984 to 2009, it housed New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors that produced 500,000 cars per year. The Tesla factory produces about 100,000 cars per year.
After the aluminum for the car body is cut, stamped, and painted, the pieces head to a central location and the Teslas are assembled.
Some of the robots in the plant are able to change tools on their own to perform different tasks. For instance, the robot that installs the seats is also able to change tools to grab the windshield, put some glue around it, and install it in the car. That robot can install the rear window, too.
Telsa added skylights and high-efficiency overhead lights when it purchased the plant "to brighten what was once a dark, enclosed space."
Floors were painted white "to brighten up the space" and "set the tone for laboratory-like attention to detail."
Another view of the robots working on aluminum car panels. CEO Elon Musk named the larger robots after Marvel Comics characters--including Wolverine, Iceman, Angel, Xavior, Cyclops, Changeling and Nightcrawler.
Every car-in-progress moves through the factory by itself, propelled by a magnetic strip.
In July 2014, production stopped for plant improvements--including an upgrade to the assembly line, added capacity in the body shop and powertrain assembly enhancements.
Tesla launched the Model S in 2012, and the Model X in September 2015.
The Tesla plant in Fremont, CA produces about 1,000 vehicles each week. In 2013, the plant had 3,000 employees working alongside 160 robots. Here's a peek inside.
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