One of the most anticipated cars in history has finally arrived. Well, sort of. Two years behind schedule, Elon Musk has taken to the stage at the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, to fire the starting gun on the rollout of the Tesla Cybertruck.
The surprise November 30, 2023 release date was announced on Twitter / X by Musk yesterday. It comes four years after the muscled-up silver beast made its debut appearance in 2019, scheduled for a 2021 release. Now, after a slew of production issues, Tesla’s first new vehicle in three years is apparently ready to go.
“Finally, the future will look like the future,” Musk said at the announcement, showing a video of the Cybertruck racing and beating a Porsche 911 while towing a Porsche 911.
“It’s an incredibly useful truck – it’s not just some grandstanding showpiece, like me. This is really going to change the look of the roads.”
By all accounts, the official launch of the Cybertruck was incredibly awkward. Only 10 models were actually presented to customers who had pre-ordered them years ago. Musk appeared worn out and even less coherent than usual. It did little to dispel the shock and intense criticism that has plagued the futuristic-looking 4WD from its earliest days.
Many view the Cybertruck as Musk’s overly ambitious and deeply weird passion project with the power to bring down the Tesla empire. Far from being the jewel in the crown, bad publicity has made the Cybertruck something of a laughing stock.
That image was earned in 2019 at the first public unveiling of the truck when Musk directed a steel ball to be thrown at the “bulletproof” windows of the truck, only to have them shatter — twice. Another recent video of the Cybertruck failing to climb over rocky terrain also did not help its image.
The former stunt was ‘repeated’ at the official launch. Musk had Franz von Holzhausen, the Cybertruck’s Chief Designer, throw another ball at the car’s windows which thankfully held up this time — except this was a baseball softly tossed at the windows, proving precisely nothing.
Musk needs the Cybertruck to be a success — choosing a ridiculously outlandish design and somewhat impractical specs makes that gamble all the more challenging.
Back when the truck was first announced, Tesla was the premiere electric vehicle company with few real competitors. Four years later, Tesla trails behind the Chinese firm BYD while its USP of having the first EV truck has been thwarted, with three already on the market and many about to enter it. At the same time, operating expenses for the auto manufacturer have increased 43% year on year.
Cybertruck deliveries start on Thursday
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2023
In an effort to maintain market dominance, Telsa has been cutting the sticker price of vehicles to remain competitive. That hasn’t stopped the company’s share price from almost halving since its November 2021 peak. Tesla shares dropped a further 1% following the launch.
Even Musk believes this is a bad time to drop such an experimental vehicle, telling investors recently that Tesla has “dug our own grave with the Cybertruck.” He believes it will take a year and a half before sales of the vehicle are profitable.
In classic Musk style, however, the world’s sometime-richest individual has said that he’s completely indifferent to its success. “I don’t care if anyone buys it,” he is reported to have told his design team in 2019.
“We’re not doing a traditional boring truck. We can always do that later. I want to build something that’s cool. Like, don’t resist me,” he said.
Musk might not care, but if the Cybertruck fails to deliver, as many expect it will, it could put the fortunes of a company already in turbulence into real dire straits. As one of the largest investors in EV infrastructure, that could have major knock-on effects on broader EV uptake in Australia and across the world.
Cybertruck’s Latest Details
The launch event did provide us with some elusive details on the Cybertruck. We learned that it will come in three variants; a top-performing ‘Cyberbeast’ model, an all-wheel drive version, and a cheaper rear-wheel drive option.
The price of the vehicles was also finally revealed, with the Cyberbeast coming in at between USD $80,000 – $100,000 ($120,000 – $150,000) while the base model comes in at USD $61,000 ($92,000).
Beats a Porsche 911 while towing a 911
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 30, 2023
Musk has previously said that he expects to make 250,000 Cybertrucks per year, although production isn’t expected to reach that volume until 2025 at the earliest. The base model is also not expected until this date.
There was criticism of the delivered specs of the Cybertruck too. The vehicle had been toted as having a ‘500+ mile range’ and costing USD $70,000. In actuality, the range is only 320 miles (520 kms) on a single charge. For the base model, that drops to 250 miles (402 kms).
All up, the base model Cybertruck is thought to be able to do 0-100kms in 6.5 seconds. The AWD version will do the same in 4.1 seconds, while the Cyberbeast, with its triple motors, can hit that speed in 2.6 seconds.
Much has been made of the Cybertruck’s unique design. The car is based around a stainless steel exoskeleton, a material not typically used in vehicle manufacturing as it’s hard to shape and keep in place. The fact that the truck is designed to be bulletproof means it’s had to be made from even thicker stainless steel than normally used, compounding those production issues.
Because of the vehicle’s straight lines, Musk has said that “precision” will be an issue for Tesla as variations in the build stick out “like a sore thumb.” Previously leaked photos of the Cybertruck revealed that getting doors and panelling to align properly already seems like a challenge for the company. Not the most encouraging start for a truck in the premium EV category.
Still, Musk is characteristically optimistic about his latest toy, describing it as a “better truck than a truck and a better sports car than a sports car”.
“Once every five to ten years something really special, a really unusual product comes along and we’ll remember those special moments,” he told the crowd in Austin.
“I think it’s our best product. I think it’s the most unique thing on the road. And finally the future will look like the future.”
Is Cybertruck Available in Australia?
While the announcement revealed much about the mysterious new Cybertruck, we got no further information about when it will be coming to Australia – if it ever does.
Tesla has been taking refundable deposits on Cybertrucks since 2019 however it stopped taking orders in Australia in May of last year. Australian customers were invited to apply for refunds and this was interpreted as a sign that Tesla wouldn’t be bringing the Cybertruck to Australia at all. Despite this, photos and technical info for the truck remained on the Tesla Australia website.
“We’re really, fundamentally making this truck as a North American ass-kicker, basically,” Musk told Automotive News, appearing to suggest he’s just not that interested in selling it to the rest of the world.
New hope was given to Tesla fans however in June when a Cybertruck was spotted being imported into New Zealand for testing, meaning Tesla is likely still looking to expand to our part of the world eventually. Manufacturing the vehicle for right-hand drive and in compliance with Australian pedestrian safety standards, however, could take far longer than the already blown-out US arrival date.
Some reports state that Australians are unlikely to receive their Cybertrucks until at least 2027. This is partially due to the fact that over a million of the vehicles have been ordered, with Tesla claiming it could take four to five years before that pre-order backlog is cleared.
So, as far as we know, there are no concrete details on when exactly the Cybertruck will arrive in Australia, if ever. If it does come, expect to be holding out at least until that backlog is cleared.