Tesla’s Cybertruck Finally Starts Production — But Is It Already Doomed?
It's been a long road to the factory line, but the road ahead could be even longer.
Elon Musk is no stranger to bold predictions. There’s full self-driving, colonization of Mars, humanoid robots, hyperloops, reusable rockets, whatever you want to call the dumpster fire at Twitter... you get the point.
But every bold prediction comes with it an expiration date. Did the vision come to pass? Or was “the future” just fodder for Joe Rogan’s next podcast? Lucky for Musk and his all-important reputation as a visionary, loftier ideas like space colonization may have a bit of runway left. But for Tesla’s oft-delayed and much-anticipated Cybertruck EV, it’s time to put up.
On July 15, after years of anticipation, the first big, shiny Cybertruck rolled off of Tesla’s production line. And though it’s been a long arduous road to get to this point, entering into a drastically different EV environment with a drastically different set of rules and expectations, the road to EV success for the Cybertruck (read: the road ahead) might be even longer and more treacherous.
The slow dirge of time
It was 2019 when Elon Musk first unveiled the prototype of Tesla’s bold new Cybertruck, punctuating a live reveal with the now-iconic act of smashing the EV’s supposedly bulletproof glass with a metal ball. Ouch.
Following that reveal, things didn’t go much smoother for the Cybertruck. Though an initial pre-production deadline was set for 2021, the outbreak of 2020 quashed those plans. Then it was sometime in 2023, a deadline that also did not come to pass. Now, mass production is being eyed for next year. Finally, success! Maybe.
A lot can happen in five years and, predictably, a lot has. As a result, those Cybertruck promises in 2019 are starting to look a bit different than the ones forming before our eyes. For one, there’s the price. Though the EV was originally slated to cost $39,900, Musk braced the public back in 2022 for a price that “will be different” than the one promised. It’s safe to read between the lines here and assume he means “more expensive,” not less. But we’ll still have to wait and see.
In 2019 — or even 2021 for that matter — a higher price for such a truck might not have been a dealbreaker, but this is a different market than the one of yore. There are compelling new competitors in the electric pickup truck space, including Rivian and its R1T, Ford and its F-150 Lightning, and the upcoming electric Chevy Silverado. Buyers have options, and if the Cybertruck doesn’t exceed or meet those alternatives in terms of quality and marketing, I can only assume those same buyers will avail themselves of other cars.
It’s not just the price that has changed since 2019, either. There’s a more nebulous, non-business factor at play: taste. When the Cybertruck debuted in 2019, its alien-like cyberpunk design (inspired partly by Halo’s Warthog), captured the attention of would-be EV owners. The shiny, angular, spaceship-like exterior was divisive, yes, but impossible to ignore.
A big, boxy EV may demand attention, but is that really what people want in 2023 (or 2024 for that matter)? In some respects, it’s impossible to say. There is genuinely no other EV that looks like the Cybertruck on the market, but when looking across the field at offerings from Rivian, Ford, or even Hummer, big and boxy aren’t exactly the descriptors that come to mind.
And even still, expectations versus reality rears its head. Like most things, the closer you peer into the reality of the Cybertruck, the more the blemishes reveal themselves. The Cybertruck may have retained its overall iconoclastic look — just with some not-so-fun caveats. There’s the snub-nose, the bland interior, and the odd liminal dashboard space created by the truck’s massive angular windshield. And speaking of windshields, there’s the Wiper, capital “W” intended. It’s huge. It’s conspicuous. It’s downright comical.
It’s also apparently not super effective at, you know, cleaning the entire windshield. Which brings me to my next big question mark: production.
If the adage about putting your best foot forward is to be believed, Tesla may be getting off to a bad start. As noted by AutoEvolution, the automaker’s big, splashy, first Cybertruck may have rolled off the production line with a noticeable flaw: a misaligned door.
It’s obviously too early to sound any alarm bells, but in a rollout rife with inauspicious starts, making a bad omen out of an oops doesn’t feel out of the question.
I’d be a fool to count Tesla out completely. In the EV titan’s early stages, plenty of people (and legacy automakers) scoffed at the idea that an upstart could create a market for electric cars where the was none — let alone do so without preexisting infrastructure for manufacturing or even places to sell the cars it made.
But here we are with Tesla still at the top of North America’s EV totem poll. And maybe that’s just the difference.
Back then, Tesla got points for treading into unknown territory. Issues with craftsmanship, recalls, or less-than-ideal software, all seemed a little less unforgivable as a result. But how people react to an upstart and how people react to the champ are two different things. Maybe, even if Tesla doesn’t exactly deliver on the Cybertrucks initial-but-bold vision of an electric pickup truck, its stalwart fans will be enough to carry the EV forward. Tesla fans are known for their zeal, after all.
But maybe that’s expecting too much. Maybe Tesla’s margin for error isn’t quite what it used to be. And maybe the Cybertruck, in all of its polished, boxy, glory, is right back at its embarrassing cracked-window debut. And here we are watching Musk and friends with the proverbial ball in hand to see if this time the Cybertruck’s window actually holds up to those big, heavy expectations.