Four years after its debut, the Tesla Cybertruck has finally reached its first batch of customers. The truck was delivered to about a dozen people during a lavish event at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, at which Elon Musk predicted the truck would usher in a new, more exciting future.
The company also provided updated details about the pricing, range, and features for the truck, much of which has changed significantly from the originally announced numbers. The rear-wheel drive version of the electric truck will start at $60,990 — up from the original price of $39,900 in 2019 — and will get 250 miles of range on a full charge. That version won’t be available until 2025.
Coming sooner — 2024, Tesla’s order page states optimistically — will be the dual-motor and tri-motor “Cyberbeast” versions. The AWD Cybertruck will start at $79,990, get 340 miles, hit 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds, and do a top speed of 112 mph. And the tri-motor trim will run you $99,990, produce a ridiculous 845 horsepower with 10,296 lb-ft of torque, and get around 320 miles of range.
During the event, Musk invited Tesla chief designer Franz Von Holzhausen to re-do the infamous, botched window strength demonstration from 2019, in which he smashed the supposed armor plated glass with a ball bearing. This time he threw a baseball — pretty weakly, I might add — but the glass withstood the projectile this time around.
The event was uncharacteristically short for a Tesla party. There appeared to be far fewer attendees than were at the original Cybertruck debut back in 2019. After Musk went through some the features, including the truck’s bulletproof exterior and some of its performance capabilities, he quickly announced it was over — and then helped about a dozen or so of the first customers drive off in their trucks.
Not mentioning the price may have been a deliberate choice, because clearly those numbers were much less attractive than the prices we saw back in 2019. That said, customers are sure to be happy with the towing and acceleration capabilities.
The angular, stainless steel electric truck has long fascinated fans of Tesla, but its many delays have led some to question whether the truck would ever actually arrive. The production has reportedly been extremely challenging for the company, mostly due to the choice to use ultra-hard stainless steel for the exterior. Musk insisted the truck be bulletproof, which further complicated the process.
The polarizing design has been another flashpoint. The polygonal shape and sharp angles were meant to signal that Tesla couldn’t be less interested in competing in the traditional truck market. That has led some experts to conclude that the Cybertruck is likely to be more of a halo vehicle for the company, luring in customers to instead buy its more practical (and available) vehicles, like the Model 3 and Y.
The angular, stainless steel electric truck has long fascinated fans of Tesla
Indeed, in the run-up to the event, Musk sought to “temper expectations” around the Cybertruck, warning investors that it wouldn’t start to generate “positive cash flow” for the company for at least a year to 18 months. Tesla has said it expects to begin producing 250,000 trucks annually by 2025, but the production ramp would be extraordinarily difficult.
In an earnings call in October, Musk said “demand was off the charts,” noting that over 1 million people have paid $100 in a refundable deposit to reserve the Cybertruck. But he also admitted that the company may have bitten off more than it could chew. “We dug our own grave with the Cybertruck,” he said. “You know, nobody — in general, probably nobody digs a grave better than themselves.”
Now that it’s out, much of the focus will redirect to Tesla’s production and how quickly the company can get these vehicles into customers’ hands. As a new entry into the highly competitive truck market, there will also be some attention paid to how well it competes with other electric trucks out there, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T.
But those questions may be moot because Tesla is just not expected to make very many — at least not at first. The polarizing design is likely to turn off a broad swath of truck customers. And its arrival in the midst of a cooling market for electric vehicles means there are just way fewer early adopters and tech-obsessives who are in the market for a giant polygon on wheels — cool factor notwithstanding.
From a sales perspective, the Cybertruck could end up being a huge hit. But even so, it won’t come anywhere close to matching the volume of trucks that Ford, Chevy, and others typically sell. For Musk to jump feet first into the highly lucrative, intensely competitive truck market with a divisive design and difficult production process seems like an odd choice — even for a guy who’s become somewhat famous for odd choices.
Much of the industry has shifted to bigger vehicles in recent decades, with trucks in particular making up some of the bestselling models. The companies make a lot of them, they sell a lot, and then they reap the profits. Tesla does not seem poised to reap the same benefits from the Cybertruck.