Elon Musk Doesn’t Want To Talk About Tesla Cybertruck Dates
Much like Musk’s decade-long self-driving prophecies, it’s hard to trust anything he says about his giant electric truck. His constant failure to meet his own deadlines leaves me feeling like a disappointed Millerite watching the still-faithful hold their breath for the next date of revelation to be declared.
“The production ramp will move as fast as the slowest and least lucky elements of the entire supply chain and internal production,” Musk said last month.
Tesla has worked out the kinks as far as production of Model 3 goes (though quality control issues continued to emerge), but now Tesla faces building an entirely new kind of product in that same factory working with a difficult-to-manufacture stainless steel body. The intended “exoskeleton” structure of the car has evolved into a more conventional unibody design. The automaker started up its line sometime this Spring, but we haven’t seen any more finished trucks on the streets (though prototypes are wandering America’s roads, according to Electrek).
Tesla is betting a lot on the Cybertruck bringing fresh interest in the brand, which hasn’t released a new vehicle since 2017. However, as yet another self-imposed deadline for the Cybertruck’s start of serious production and customer deliveries draws nearer, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not exactly forthcoming with details.
Experts told the WSJ that Tesla will likely suffer more hits to its profitability before the truck makes it to customers in reasonable volumes. The Model 3 was able to make back a lot of money for Tesla, as they were cheaply produced, more accessible vehicles. While trucks are certainly profitable in the U.S. (they account for 13 percent of new vehicle sales and 40 percent of automaker’s profits), the Cybertruck — with its odd styling, electric drivetrain and likely steeper price tag — won’t likely see Model 3 numbers. Musk says he wants to sell 250,000 a year. Meanwhile, Ford has sold about 700,000 Lightnings over the last year, Barron’s reports.
At this point, the Cybertruck itself is old. Unveiled in 2019, the Cybertruck was meant to be delivered to customers by 2021. During its two year delay, the truck was preempted by the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Rivian R1T. Tesla has so far made at least one more Cybertruck this year, though it seems the company doesn’t want you to see it.
In the not-so-distant past, Tesla was almost undone by production problems of its most affordable vehicle, the Model 3. The truck is to be built at the same Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, where Musk famously called building the Model 3 “Production Hell.” There were reports of cars being built by hand in the parking lots under tents while Musk’s “Gigafactory” advanced robots flailed. Musk denied these claims, though he admitted to “manual and automated processes.” At one point, Musk posted video showing the line running at one-tenth of its claimed potential speed.
During the company’s most recent call with Wall Street analysts, however, Musk sidestepped a question about pricing and delivery schedules. Instead, he said deliveries would come this year. He also echoed past warnings that beginning production of a new vehicle can be tricky.
Back in April, Musk promised a small number of Cybertrucks would be delivered starting in September, but on a call with Wall Street Investors last week, that timeline seemed less certain. From the Wall Street Journal:
To some, it looked like Tesla might stop being a company if it couldn’t pull off Model 3 production and delivery. But Tesla emerged from production hell in 2018, taking almost two years to reach mass production of the Model 3. Three short years later the company would claim the title of most profitable car company in 2021, despite spending some quarters losing money on every model.