In 2019, Tesla and Musk launched a thousand memes when the carmaker’s head of design, Franz von Holzhausen, tried to prove the strength of the Cybertruck’s windows by throwing a metal ball at it. The glass shattered. Today, Tesla went a bit easier on its truck. Von Holzhausen went after the windows with a baseball. The Cybertruck survived.
The Cybertruck is a big deal for Tesla. It’s the first new vehicle the electric automaker has produced in three years. In a business built on novelty—traditionally, automakers pump out new features and makes almost every year—that’s a long time to wait for something new. Plus, it’s Tesla’s first entrant into the popular and high-margin pickup truck business. How the Cybertruck performs for the carmaker will help determine how easily the world, and especially the United States, transitions to electrics.
Beyond the Cybertruck, Tesla is both doing very, very well and yet somehow always in crisis. The company is the most valuable automaker in the world, and one of the world’s most valuable companies of any kind. Its last new vehicle, the Model Y, is the top-selling electric vehicle in the US and the best selling vehicle, period, in five US states. Tesla has four factories up and running around the world and is due to open another, in Mexico, in 2025. It has completely upended the way the car business thinks about software and manufacturing.
But Tesla also ran into two years’ worth of delays as it raced to get out the Cybertruck, many of them self-inflicted. The vehicle’s unorthodox design and use of stainless steel appear to have created obstacles for the engineering team, which must eventually produce many trucks with great precision. By early 2022, WIRED has reported, Tesla was still struggling with the basics with an early preproduction version of the truck: with braking, handling, noise, and leaks.
Plus, CEO Elon Musk is constantly in the news, and not always in a good way. Just yesterday, the also-X CTO and owner told advertisers to “G-F-Y” from the stage of a New York Times conference.
During the event, Musk took a similar screw-the-haters approach. “We have a car here that experts said was impossible,” he said onstage in Texas. “Finally, the future will look like the future,” he said, referring to the truck’s untraditional design.
Tesla’s stock price fell on the news of the rollout after the event, down by 1.8 percent by late Thursday afternoon.
When will buyers get their Cybertrucks? Musk said last month that over 1 million people placed $100 (refundable) reservations for the vehicle. They’re first in line. But even those folks might not receive their trucks until 2025, when Musk has said the Cybertruck production line will really hit its stride, pumping out 250,000 a year. Which is all to say: If you haven’t gotten in your reservation yet, expect a wait.
Updated: 11-30-2023, 4:25 pm EST: This article was updated with additional information about the Cybertruck and to correct the price of the base model.