Elon Musk speaks to Axios on HBO.
Elon Musk speaks to Axios on HBO.

Tesla ‘weeks from death’ this year

ELON Musk has admitted Tesla was "weeks" away from death earlier this year as it struggled to meet production targets for the Model 3 sedan.

Speaking to Axios on HBO, the billionaire revealed how the strain of the past year had taken a toll on his physical and mental health.

"Tesla really faced this year threat of death due to the Model 3 production ramp," he said. "We were within single-digit weeks."

Musk said the company was "bleeding money like crazy and if we didn't solve these problems in a very short period of time we would die, and it was extremely difficult to solve them".

After missing several self-imposed deadlines Tesla finally hits its production target of 5000 Model 3s a week in the last seven days of June. Last month the company reported its first quarterly profit since 2016, surprising analysts.

"I was working seven days a week, sleeping in the factory. I was in the paint shop, general assembly, body shop," Musk told HBO.

Asked if he worried about himself "imploding", Musk said, "Yeah, absolutely. No one should put this many hours into work. This is not good. People should not work this hard. They should not do this. This is very painful. It hurts my brain and my heart."

Prior to hitting its production target Tesla was facing around $US1 billion in debt repayments - around $US230 million due in November - without enough cash coming in to keep the company running.

"I've said before that we must prove that Tesla can be sustainably profitable," he told reporters during last month's earnings call. "This quarter was an important step towards that."

Musk has informed patient customers who paid deposits for their Model 3s as early as March 2016 that the first Australian deliveries will take place "around mid-2019".

After taxes and import duties, the cheapest Model 3 will be around $80,000 drive-away, putting it on par with a Mercedes-Benz C300 or Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro.

The high-profile chief executive of the electric carmaker has endured a tumultuous year marked by personal and professional scandals.

He stepped down as chairman last month as part of a $US40 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which alleged Musk misled investors with a series of tweets in August suggesting he had funding in place to take the company private.

Musk is also being sued for defamation by British diving expert Vernon Unsworth - who helped in the Thai cave rescue earlier this year - for calling him "paedo guy" in an extraordinary Twitter attack.

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