Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two years ago, Elon Musk was lamenting that Tesla was mired in "production hell." Now, he's singing a different tune.

"I just want to be clear, at Tesla, we love manufacturing. It's awesome, and I really think more smart people should be working on manufacturing."

Why it matters: Musk's about-face comes as Tesla is stomping on the accelerator to meet global demand for its electric vehicles, adding production capacity on three continents.

"Just think about the next 12 to 18 months. We'll have three new factories in place. ... There's so much to be excited about," Musk told investors on Wednesday's earnings call.

Flashback: Musk once vowed Tesla's super-automated factories would resemble an "alien dreadnought."

  • He even bragged to industry analysts in early 2018 that Tesla would school Toyota on lean manufacturing, but later admitted to overreaching on factory automation and production targets for its Model 3.

Now, Tesla's manufacturing seems to be on track — and getting better.

  • The company managed to produce more than 82,000 vehicles in the second quarter, despite a six-week shutdown of its Fremont, California, factory due to the coronavirus.
  • Tesla rapidly ramped up production of Model 3 in China, where it learned lessons about how to redesign the underpinnings of the Model Y to make it even easier to manufacture at its next plant, in Germany.
  • "We're getting way better at making cars," Musk said, and lauding manufacturing engineering as an exciting profession with a bad rap.

Yes, but: Tesla is still dogged by quality problems, and its cars lag behind other U.S. auto brands in J.D. Power's 2020 Initial Quality Survey of issues reported in the first three months of ownership.

  • Common problems include paint imperfections and poorly fitting body panels, according to J.D. Power.

The bottom line: Tesla's long-term competitive advantage won't be its cars, but its efficient manufacturing techniques, says Musk.

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Why it matters: Lucid's driving range is about 115 miles farther than Tesla's longest-range Model S, but more important, the efficiency breakthrough could enable the arrival of more affordable EVs in the future.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Trump says he intends to give RNC speech on White House lawn

President Trump speaking to reporters on South Lawn in July. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump told the New York Post on Thursday that he plans to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, despite bipartisan criticism of the optics and legality of the location.

Why it matters: Previous presidents avoided blurring staged campaign-style events — like party conventions — with official business of governing on the White House premises, per Politico.