Part of the issue is producing tiles that meet the aesthetic standards of company CEO, Elon Musk.
Announced in October 2016, Tesla's Solar Roof tiles are advertised as a beautiful, durable alternative to regular roof tiles that also happen to produce electricity to power your home. But the production at Tesla's Buffalo, New York plant that opened last year has been so slow that it forced Panasonic — Tesla's partner in this venture — to sell components it built for Tesla to other buyers. This is according to unnamed current and former Panasonic employees as well as a former Tesla employee.
Another former Tesla employee told Reuters that the aesthetic look of the tiles, which is not always up to par with Musk's standards, is the "big issue" here. According to Reuters' sources, only one out of four versions of the Solar Roof tile — the black-textured one — has been produced so far.
In a response to Reuters, Tesla said it's working to improve production output but declined to give any exact figures. "We are steadily ramping up Solar Roof production in Buffalo and are also continuing to iterate on the product design and production process. We plan to ramp production more toward the end of 2018," the company said in a statement.
Last week, Musk said there are "several hundred homes" with a Solar Roof installed, and that the project was "going well." But Tesla now clarified to Reuters that this number includes homes that are scheduled to have the roof installed as well.
Panasonic told Reuters it has been selling "some" of the solar panels produced in the Buffalo factory under its own brand, instead of selling them to Tesla.
The delayed production could become a problem for Tesla, as the company was given $750 million in state subsidies in order to build and equip the Buffalo factory. Under the terms of the agreement, Tesla must employ 1,460 people in Buffalo within two years of the factory's completion. It also needs to spend $5 billion in New York state over ten years. Right now, the state's regulators believe Tesla is meeting its obligations, and Tesla said the facility currently employs about 600 people and is "on track" to meet its commitments.