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Tesla Allows Cameras In Fremont Factory For Rare Tour

FREMONT (CBS SF) -- There's a certain amount of mystery surrounding Tesla's Fremont electric car plant, but KPIX 5 recently got an exclusive look inside.

It was the first time in five years that Tesla let a television crew inside the factory.

The people KPIX 5 cameras captured weren't tourists waiting to get a look inside Tesla; they were customers whose cars -- already purchased -- were being assembled on the line right now

But before these newly minted Tesla owners can go inside, they all have to surrender their smart phones and cameras. Tesla doesn't allow any device that can take a picture or video.

The mile-long, 5 million square foot factory was so big, the KPIX 5 crew needed a golf cart to get around. At almost every stage of the manufacturing process, there's a "wow" moment.

There are hundreds of robots working at a variety of stations that make the factory look more like a surgical ward than an auto plant.

The robots are among the largest in the world. They have names like cyclops and thunderbird. They can do five different things at once. They can weld and rivet and lift up a car.

Unlike many car manufacturers, most of the components are made right here in the factory. Other car companies bring in material from outside suppliers.

"That's very true," said Tesla spokesman Alexis Georgeson. "We start with these 20,000 pound rolls of aluminum. We stamp them into body panels. From the very beginning all the way through the production process."

Virtually everything is made on site, including the 17-inch dashboard screen and electronics.

"It's really kind of a computer factory inside a car factory," said Georgeson.

Then KPIX 5 got a peek at something almost never seen by anyone outside of Tesla: the installation of the car's battery pack. Each weighs just over 1,300 pounds.

The battery sits along the entire floorboard of every sedan and allows it to go over 200 miles on a single charge.

"Every single car built here already has an owner. They have designed that vehicle," said Georgeson.

Including the new Model X.

"It's the first all-electric SUV ever made. It's also the fastest acceleration SUV ever built," said Georgeson.

And next up for the assembly line, Tesla says it will introduce the Model 3, a mid-priced $35,000 electric car for the masses.

Which might mean they will need more trolleys to take all those new owners on the factory floor.

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