Giddy Musk unveils Cybertruck in Tesla’s latest defiant bet

Tesla has begun commercial deliveries of the Cybertruck, its long-awaited answer to the pickup truck

Tesla began customer deliveries of the Cybertruck on Thursday, bringing to fruition an Elon Musk passion project that the billionaire boasts is stronger than bullets and faster than a Porsche.

“It’s very rare that a product comes along that is seemingly impossible… that experts said would never be made,” a giddy Musk told a crowd at Tesla’s Austin, Texas headquarters. “And this is one of those times.”

The arrival of the angular truck, which has evoked the world of “Blade Runner” or “Mad Max,” comes two years later than Musk’s original time frame and at a starting price some $10,000 above the original target, owing to higher supply chain costs and manufacturing problems stemming from its iconoclastic design.

Analysts have called the Cybertruck a high-risk project compared with Tesla’s other vehicles.

But Musk has shown a zealot’s commitment to the project, which he said was probably the company’s best, declaring, “Finally, the future will look like the future!”

The belated debut comes as other automakers have delayed capital investments due to sluggish demand for electric vehicles. Tesla itself has undertaken numerous price cuts on its other models, even as its share price has stayed lofty.

“Launching Cybertruck is important for the broader Tesla growth story over the coming years and also will prove to the doubters that Musk can successfully expand the Tesla halo effect as more consumers head down the EV path over the coming years,” Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said in a note.

Thursday’s event provided updated pricing for the vehicle, answering a key question of Wall Street and consumers.

A standard model, available in 2025, costs $49,000 while the “Cyberbeast” with greater horsepower and towing capacity is $96,390.

The prices include expected US tax credits and savings from eliminating gasoline purchases, according to Tesla’s website.

The vehicle was originally announced with a starting price of $39,900 and first production in 2021.

In recent months, Musk has sought to limit expectations over the vehicle’s commercial potential, warning in October it would be “incredibly difficult” to commercially scale the truck.”

– Challenging design –

Musk caused a stir in November 2019 with the prototype of the Cybertruck, generating curiosity and buzz even if it wasn’t universally loved.

After a brief presentation Thursday in which the Cybertruck was shown withstanding a barrage of bullets from a military weapon and successfully towing a 40,000-pound (18,140-kilogram) sled, Musk posed for pictures with smiling customers who drove off in their new trucks.

“This is really going to change the look of the roads,” Musk said.

But the vehicle’s unusual styling, which employs large flat plates of unbent stainless steel, poses challenges in manufacturing, said Art Wheaton, an expert on transportation industries at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

“It may look cool, but it’s extremely difficult to manufacture successfully,” Wheaton said.

The Cybertruck ranges from a standard model available in 2025 at just under $49,000 to the “Cyberbeast” at $96,390 with greater horsepower and towing capacity

The vehicle drew a scathing appraisal from progressive magazine The American Prospect, which warned that stainless steel was prone to rusting and that the stiff material could prove especially deadly in car crashes.

Instead of focusing on building more affordable EVs, Tesla “wasted four years and billions of dollars on Elon Musk’s adolescent video game fantasy,” the magazine said. “It turns out megalomaniac, conspiracy-brained billionaires are not the key to a zero-carbon transportation future.”

– Niche product? –

Musk has warned that the ramp-up of the vehicle will take time, reaching 250,000 a year in 2025.

Wheaton is skeptical the Cybertruck will be a big seller in part because of the “polarizing” design.

But he said Cybertruck could still be a success for Musk even if it turns out to be a niche product, by luring customers to the brand. Wheaton likened the effect to the Chevrolet Corvette, which does not account for huge sales but draws buyers to other GM vehicles.

“It works as a kind of attention-grabber,” he predicted.

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