He didn’t use the words “Production Hell,” specifically. But when you hear Tesla CEO Elon Musk talk about the Cybertruck at today’s Q3 2023 earnings call, you almost get the same vibes.
Musk opened today’s call by not only announcing the company’s latest financial results – which saw its 16th consecutively profitable quarter dampened by price cuts and factory downtime – but also being circumspect about its new stainless-steel EV pickup truck.
“I just want to temper expectations for Cybertruck,” Musk said. “It’s a great product, but financially, it will take a year to 18 months before it is a significant, positive cash flow contributor. I wish there was some way to be different but that’s just my best guess.”
He later added: “We dug our own grave with Cybertruck.”
Musk blamed the extremely novel production techniques involved with the truck, as well as the fact that it’s an entirely new model – something Tesla has historically struggled with when designing and releasing products.
“This is simply normal for when you’ve got a product with a lot of new technology, or any brand new vehicle program, but especially one that is as different and advanced as the Cybertruck,” Musk said. “You will have problems proportionate to how many new things you’re trying to solve at scale. So I just want to emphasize that, one, I think this is potentially our best product ever… [but] it’s going to require immense work to reach value production and be cash flow positive at a price that people can afford.”
Few details remain known about the Cybertruck, including how much it will cost. Tesla did say in today’s Q3 report that deliveries are expected to begin in November, but it’s been delayed before. Musk claimed the truck still has more than 1 million reservations, but was cagey on when those trucks may actually arrive in customers’ hands.
“I think we’ll end up with a quarter-million Cybertrucks a year,” Musk said, before adding, “I don’t think we’ll reach that rate next year. I think we’ll probably reach it sometime in 2025.” That would be almost six years since the truck was first unveiled.
In theory, the Cybertruck will face intense competition from other EV trucks by the time it’s able to be mass-produced at a reasonable price tag that’s profitable for Tesla too. At the same time, the so-called “legacy” automakers have struggled with their own nascent EV offerings this year alone. Ford’s F-150 Lightning has seen significant price increases, and just this week, General Motors announced it would push back production of some of its Chevrolet and GMC EV trucks nearly a year to late 2025. And Tesla has been through this before with the Model S and Model 3: it reinvents how something works, struggles with it for a while, then gets it down.
But in this case, Tesla has had to reinvent a lot with stainless steel, a notoriously difficult metal to reliably and consistently work with in automotive applications. Then again, the Cybertruck has been a reliable hype machine: easily one of the most eagerly anticipated new car debuts of this decade, even if its on-sale date has been repeatedly punted back.
Whether it can really be an F-150-killer like some of Tesla’s most ardent boosters claim remains to be seen. But even Musk will say the company has its work cut out getting this one right.
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