Tesla’s Controversial Move to Skip Prototype Phase of Their New Model 3

Business, Leadership, Pro Dev, Startups April 27, 2017
Computer screen with design for device

Forget all the advice you’ve ever heard about the best ways to build prototypes … fail fast … build a small boat … iterate, iterate, iterate … The innovative and forward-thinking company Tesla has decided to skip prototyping in order to get their Phase 3 model to market faster. Does Tesla know something the rest of us don’t know? Does Tesla’s controversial move to skip the prototype phase of their new Model 3 mean we should all start going against conventional thinking and not worry about prototyping?

“Not so fast,” says RTS Labs owner and founder Jyot Singh. “Tesla may have some incredible people working for them, but they’re still taking a great risk that many smaller businesses and startups couldn’t afford. Tesla is on a whole other playing field from most of us, from their engineering staff to their investors and financial backing.”

Pros and cons

By skipping the prototype phase, Tesla:

  • Saves money on their assembly line, because they don’t have to change the equipment as many times, since they’re not building the prototype, going through iterations, and then finally producing the final product.
  • Saves time, because they hope to have a final product to release earlier rather than later.

But by skipping the prototype phase, Tesla also:

  • Risks producing a product that isn’t up to the quality standards Tesla has become known for.
  • Risks a PR nightmare if the Model 3 has serious errors that degrade performance, cause major recalls (which would be incredibly expensive), or, worse, hurts or kills someone.

Notice that both those points start with the word, “risks.” That’s not a coincidence. Tesla is taking a huge risk by not engaging in a full-on prototype phase. There will no doubt be testing of the new model as it is created, but will that testing be enough to avoid major problems and errors?

Perhaps Elon Musk and the engineers at Tesla feel that the Model 3 isn’t so different that they have to prototype over and over to get it right. Maybe they feel that all their cars so far have been prototypes and the Tesla Model 3 is simply the next iteration. They are the ones in the trenches, so there are things they know that we in the public don’t.

However, as a general practice, RTS Labs and most business people, designers, developers, and engineers wouldn’t presume to skip the prototyping phase. It’s too important for getting a viable product that people really want to the markets.

For more on prototyping and on this story, check out these articles:

What Every Startup Should Know about Building a Minimum Viable Product

Proven Method for Keeping Your Software and App Development from Derailing

Are you considering a project that needs prototype work or just have questions about prototyping best practices? Contact us at RTS Labs – we’d love to talk to you and have a conversation. If you get even one new idea from the conversation, it will be worth your time.