Nov 28, 2023 - Economy

Tesla Cybertruck to debut Thursday amid production challenges

An angular stainless steel pickup truck

A pre-production version of the Tesla Cybertruck during a tour of the Elkhorn Battery Energy Storage System in Moss Landing, California, on June 6, 2022. Photo: Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Tesla Cybertruck is finally ready to hit the road, boasting a degree of unconventionality that's both its selling point and its Achilles' heel.

Why it matters: The Cybertruck is the first brand-new Tesla model in three years — and it's the company's first-ever crack at the lucrative American pickup market.

State of play: Four years after showing off a concept version of the Cybertruck for the first time, Tesla is poised to showcase the launch of deliveries at an event Thursday at its factory in Austin, Texas.

  • CEO Elon Musk said last week on X that the company had already started shipping vehicles in North America.
  • The upper-tier trim level is expected to have a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds, go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and provide up to 500 miles of battery range range, according to Wedbush Securities.

The intrigue: The vehicle's angular shape yields sharp corners, giving it a polarizing futuristic look that distinguishes the vehicle from more conventional pickups but that may also make it difficult to manufacture.

  • The Cybertruck body is also made of stainless steel, an unprecedented material for a passenger vehicle that "has proven challenging to bend and manipulate," sometimes creating "large gaps when installed," the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Bloomberg reported that the vehicle is "already a production nightmare."

What they're saying: Musk has already acknowledged this.

  • "I do want to emphasize that there will be enormous challenges in reaching volume production with the Cybertruck and then in making the Cybertruck cash flow positive," Musk told investors in October.
  • But, he added, "demand is off the charts."

By the numbers: The Cybertruck marks Tesla's first attempt at the pickup category, which accounts for the three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. — but it's not expected to crack the upper echelon.

  • Evercore ISI analyst Chris McNally estimated 2024 sales at 78,000 units and 2025 sales at 165,000.
  • By comparison, Ford sold 653,957 units of the best-selling F-series pickup in 2022, down from 726,004 in 2021.

Be smart: The Cybertruck has already fallen short of expectations on multiple levels.

  • It's two years behind schedule, falling behind pickup competitors like the Rivian R1T, Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer EV.
  • It's expected to cost at least $10,000 more than initially targeted: While the starting price was once set to begin at $39,900, the actual figure is expected to be in the $50,000 range, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives.
  • To be fair, inflation has driven up prices of all vehicles since Musk first unveiled the Cybertruck in 2019.

💭 Nathan's thought bubble: The Cybertruck's debut comes amid concerns about slowing EV momentum, but this vehicle is just about as unconventional as it gets — and early adopters are likely to be unfazed by market conditions.

  • What's more important to the company's future, however, is the long-awaited debut of a so-called Model 2 — an affordable model that, at this point, looks a long way off.

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