Why Cutting Colors Won’t Solve Tesla’s Problem

This week’s news that Tesla is reducing exterior color options to speed up production is unfortunate for those waiting on their car, but it’s not shocking.

Elon Musk has often been compared to Henry Ford, and it seems he’s taking Ford’s most famous quote to heart: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it’s black.”

But it wasn’t because Ford couldn’t make different versions of the car at the time (eventually the Model T had 45 potential combinations) but because Henry Ford himself didn’t see the point.

Today, Tesla faces a different challenge.

They know that customer wants are not merely whims, they’re demands. And in today’s market, if you can’t get a car in the color you want, then you may not buy that car.

The announcement that Tesla is removing two colors – Metallic Silver and Obsidian Black – came only after a customer noticed that his car was dropped from his previously assigned delivery timeframe. If he’s like so many other Model 3 reservation holders, he’s been waiting on his car for 2+ years. Talk about a bad customer experience.

As Tesla continues to struggle with meeting production targets, the choice to eliminate color options is not an unexpected one, but it likely won’t make enough of a difference to turn around the production problems.

Even with a relatively small amount of configuration possibilities, a poor configuration engine is slowly killing the company. Tesla is experiencing a side-of-the-road break down – it’s what happens when you prioritize bells and whistles over the engine.

While Tesla may be providing some of the most innovative cars in the world today, they’re prioritizing front-end innovation over the ability to deliver product. And at the end of the day, even if you have the coolest car in the world, it doesn’t do much good if you can’t make it.

The engine matters, even if you don’t make them. Tesla is learning that the hard way.