Tesla Inc., the electric vehicle maker that steered the U.S. auto industry in a new direction, is buying a small Brooklyn Park company that over the past few years built some of the advanced equipment used in Tesla factories.
The local company, called Perbix, will remain at its site on Winnetka Avenue N. and become a Minnesota engineering outpost for Tesla. The automaker said Monday it wants to add to the Perbix staff of 150 people.
Perbix, which started as a maker of machining equipment 41 years ago, has quietly been working with Tesla for nearly three years on automated tools that include a system that makes the drive-unit rotors in its cars. Tesla said it also has Perbix equipment in its so-called Gigafactory, a battery manufacturing plant near Reno, Nev.
“Perbix, which has been a Tesla supplier for nearly three years and has executed flawlessly on a number of extremely complex automation projects, will be fully integrated into Tesla,” Tesla said in a statement. “Moving forward, we will be expanding our presence and recruiting efforts in the Twin Cities area as we continue to build the machine that builds the machine.”
Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk, a South African-born billionaire based in Silicon Valley, has spoken about a desire to make the company’s factories the most efficient in the auto industry.
“We realized that the true problem, the true difficulty, and where the greatest potential is — is building the machine that makes the machine,” Musk said at the company’s shareholder meeting in May 2016. “In other words, it’s building the factory. I’m really thinking of the factory like a product.”
Tesla is in the middle of a difficult ramp-up of production of its most affordable car yet, the Model 3, for which it has received an estimated 500,000 orders. In announcing its latest quarterly results last week, Tesla said it would miss its goal of making 5,000 Model 3 sedans per week by the end of the year. The company’s shares tumbled and analysts were divided on how quickly the company could increase its output of the new vehicle, which has a starting price of $35,000.
Perbix was started by Tom Perbix in 1976 as Perbix Machine Co., a maker of machining parts and assembling equipment. Perbix sold the firm in 2001 to its current owner, Jim Dudley. The firm has evolved since then as a specialist in factory automation equipment. A video on the company’s website touted its precision equipment and ability to deliver customized products and software.
Tesla said it will pay stock and cash for Perbix and that the overall price would not have a material effect on its financial performance. In a filing with securities regulators, Tesla said Dudley would receive 34,772 shares in Tesla, worth about $10.5 million at the company's current share price of around $300.
Tesla said no one will be relocated from the Perbix site and that it intends to grow in the Twin Cities, citing a “large pool of highly skilled engineering talent” and a number of colleges and universities from which it can also recruit workers.
“We want to hear from the best engineers in the area who are interested in working with us to help design the factory of the future,” the company said.
Tesla moved quickly to take control of Perbix. It declined to make local executives available for interviews, and the Perbix website was taken down Monday afternoon minutes after the deal was announced.
Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241