Innovation or madness? Cybertruck will check if anyone trusts Tesla

The Tesla Cybertruck, the first of which will be delivered Thursday four years after its debut, is loved and hated. For fans, it’s a symbol of what Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk stand for: creativity, irreverence, rebellion. Some see it as an act of hubris. It can be two.

Either way, the stakes are high. The automaker hasn’t produced a new passenger model — other than refreshes or variants of existing cars — in more than three years, and profit margins have shrunk due to price cuts aimed at preserving its market share. The Cybertruck could be Tesla’s magnum opus or its albatross.

Where the Cybertruck ends up in the history books (or more likely, Wikipedia) will depend on the company’s ability to navigate production problems and customer acceptance — especially if it doesn’t fall in love once it’s on the road. owner. And of course, there’s another obstacle to making a car the size people want no loss of money.

The next important step in this dangerous journey begins with 2 pm CT November 30, when Tesla is expected to deliver the first of its long-awaited Cybertrucks to patient customers. The angular, stainless steel, futuristic-looking trucks will be unveiled and delivered at Thursday afternoon’s event at the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin — and likely with all the grandeur, status and electronic dance music we’ve come to expect from Tesla.

Some Tesla shareholders, Cybertruck customers and other VIP guests will attend in person. The event will be livestreamed for everyone on a special landing page and probably in this YouTube channel and, of course, in X.

The stakes

If Tesla pulls off the Cybertruck, it could prove that it’s still the rebellious startup at heart, with the vision and dedication to disrupt the norm. It could also give the bottom line a much-needed boost and forever differentiate it from legacy rivals.

But the truck faced many challenges and delays in getting into production. Musk admitted that it was difficult to create the Cybertruck because of its unique design and stainless-steel body, which has IS reported leading to issues such as gaps between panels. We don’t yet know how much the Cybertruck will cost, but Musk has warned that it will be a while before it’s a profitable vehicle for the automaker.

During Tesla’s Q3 earnings call, Musk told investors that Tesla was “digging our own grave with the Cybertruck.” He said that scaling it is difficult and it will take at least 18 months before the pickup is profitable. The truck is already taking a chunk of Tesla’s revenue as vehicle operating costs increase 43% year-over-year. Musk says Giga Texas will produce about 250,000 Cybertrucks a year starting in 2025, but his timelines are often skewed and unreliable.

Stainless steel frame: A risky bet

Musk’s goal for the Cybertruck is to be surprising, bold and build something unexpected because it’s not like any other pickup truck out there.

“I don’t care if someone buys it,” Musk told his design team in 2019, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of the billionaire executive. “We’re not building a traditional boring truck. We can always do that later. I want to build something beautiful. Like, don’t fight me.”

As he and lead designer Franz von Holzhausen brainstormed design ideas, they talked about doing something revolutionary in the shape and manufacturing process of the car, which hadn’t changed for pickups in 80 years. . That’s why they turned their attention to the material used to make it. Rethinking the material, and even the physics of the car’s structure, opens their minds to new designs.

After discussing the possibility of aluminum and titanium, they settled on stainless steel, according to information revealed in the Isaacson biography. Charles Kuehmann, VP of materials engineering at Tesla and SpaceX, has developed an ultra-hard stainless steel alloy that is “cold rolled” rather than requiring heat treatments. The team argues that it is powerful enough and cheap enough to be used for rocket ships and trucks. The steel body does not need to be painted, resists dents and can withstand the structural load of the vehicle without relying on the chassis.

“Let’s make the energy outside, make it an exoskeleton, and hang everything from the inside of it,” Musk told his engineers.

Construction using stainless steel also means that Tesla cannot use its stamping machines to sculpt carbon fiber into body panels with curves and shapes. The truck should be sharp and angular, which is fine with Musk, who was inspired by vehicles such as the video games Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo, as well as films such as “Blade Runner” and “The Spy Who Loved Me.” In fact, Musk bought the 1970s Lotus Esprit used in the James Bond film for nearly $1 million and displayed it in the Tesla design studio.

The choice to use stainless steel created its own unforeseen problems, however, and caused the Cybertruck’s launch to be delayed. In theory, building a truck body with stainless steel panels should create a smooth, angular design. In practice, it is difficult to get the panels to line up correctly without exposing large gaps. Steel panels are also difficult to level, reports The Wall Street Journal, which mentions the people who work in the pickup. The metal is made in coils, like giant rolls of paper towels, so when it’s unfolded, it tends to return to its rolled shape.

Once the Cybertruck is on the road, customers may encounter challenges of their own. While the metal will likely make it more resistant to dents and scratches, if it does break, repairing it will likely be a nightmare. Tesla has a bad reputation for poor service, with limited service centers, limited stock to replace parts, poor communication and long wait times for appointments. to repair. Given the difficulty of getting the Cybertruck to do everything, fixing one can be equally frustrating.

A bullet-proof truck?

During the initial unveiling of Tesla’s Cybertruck in 2019, Musk asked his lead designer, Franz von Holzhausen, to demonstrate the strength of the truck’s “armor glass” by throwing a metal ball through the window. Instead of jumping, it cracked the window hard. They tried the back window again, leaving another baseball-sized crack in the glass.

Musk says he wants the Cybertruck to be bullet-proof. Will we get another, possibly louder and more dangerous, demonstration of activity this week? When in Texas…

Only 10 Cybertrucks were delivered

Tesla’s global director of product design Javier Verdura said in a keynote address last November that the company intends to deliver 10 Cybertrucks at the event, according to the Mexican newspaper. Millennium. As Tesla has done in the past, those first 10 trucks will likely go to Tesla employees and possibly a high-profile individual. For example, during the Tesla Model X event in 2015 first investors Ira Ehrenpreis and Steve Jurvetson took the stage to get their cars.

Tesla could not be reached to confirm.

The automaker usually only delivers a few cars during its delivery events. A year ago at Tesla’s Semi delivery event, the automaker handed over five trucks to Pepsi. And back in 2017, the initial Model 3 delivery event only saw 30 cars delivered, mostly to employees.

If 10 is an accurate number, we can also imagine a small number of the first units to be delivered based on the order agreement with Tesla threatening to sue Cybertruck buyers who resell the car without’ y permit in their first year of ownership. Tesla quickly retracted that language, but automakers typically only include such clauses if they have a limited number of vehicles.

While Tesla has clearly set a precedent for anticlimactic delivery events, customers who have been waiting for this day for years may still be disappointed by the mediocre offering. Musk estimated that the Cybertruck had about 1 million reservations during Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call.

Tesla first announced its Cybertruck in 2019, claiming that the first deliveries would be scheduled for 2021. The automaker has continued to push back production and delivery dates, due to supply chain headaches. supply and challenges of creating the unique car.

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