SpaceX helped Tesla with a huge headache in its cars

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Elon Musk says Model Y small SUV will leverage Model 3 platform after all

Tesla reported its second-quarter earnings today, which means a bunch of Wall Street analysts jumped on the phone to probe the ever-quotable Elon Musk — including, believe it or not, about SpaceX.

To be sure, it wasn’t specifically about space or flight — it was whether some of the innovations happening at SpaceX can be applied to Tesla. Musk runs both companies, which means it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they would share research. It turns out, in this case, that SpaceX was able to help fix a major issue in its cars that saved around 8 hours of work per car, Musk said on the call.

“There’s some really great collaboration continuously between the SpaceX teams on materials and other challenges,” explained Tesla President of Global Sales and Services Jon McNeill on the earnings call. “We had a challenge in service just over the past week where we needed to determine the quality of an object deep within our structure, an aluminum casting. That’s something that SpaceX knows how to do. Our team reached out to the SpaceX team, the SpaceX team provided us with some ultrasonic sensors so we could quickly take corrective action.”

This is semi-significant as it demonstrates the benefit of running both companies for Musk. It wouldn’t be surprising, but as both companies need to figure out how to operate successfully and be long term businesses, both need to figure out how to improve their products. For Tesla, that’s cars; for SpaceX, it’s obviously rockets. It makes sense that there would be a lot of overlap between the two when it comes to the actual science that went into building the materials.

Elon Musk called the “cross-fertilization” of thinking between the two companies very valuable, particularly in helping with “high-volume manufacturing of something that has to be extremely reliable.”

Tesla’a second quarter ended up a bit better than what Wall Street expected, with the company seeing an enormous amount of interest in the Model 3 and a surprising uptick in interest in the Model S. It seems to have quelled some concerns around Tesla, which will slowly ramp up to building a car that’s cheaper and more available for a larger audience. Tesla has a laundry list of problems to deal with — like figuring out how to build a better battery — but shaving off the edge problems means it can get up to its production targets more quickly.