Tesla Cybertruck — There Are Two Ways This Could Go

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Discussion regarding the Tesla Cybertruck has been abundant and continuous since deliveries began a week ago. Some fans are adamant it will be a humongous hit. Some critics are adamant it will be a complete dud. I think that, to start at least, it’s a highly competitive truck. But it’s also clearly a weird, different truck — there’s no mistaking it for any other vehicle on the road, which some people will love but some people will hate. The question is what its actual future is, what its actual peak tier of sales is. As I see it, there are two very different ways this could go, depending on what works and what doesn’t on a mass scale. Let’s take a closer look at these two possible futures.

Tesla Cybertruck Builds on Strengths & Becomes Top Seller

Photo courtesy of Brendan Miles and Mira Shahan.

To start with, one thing we know is the Cybertruck has a ton of power. It also has great off-roading capabilities. It’s got that durable, long-lasting stainless steel body. If these benefits catch on among truck buyers — people who presumably buy their vehicles for hauling capability and toughness — the Cybertruck could grow in popularity and eat a bigger and bigger portion of the truck market.

Word of mouth may get around that this is the toughest, most powerful, most durable pickup truck on the market. Weird design or not, if these factors do indeed matter to truck buyers above all else, we could see a large portion of the market decide the Cybertruck is their new #1.

I listed 11 cool features in the Cybertruck the other day. I don’t think any of those are really going to draw in buyers. I think it’s basically just those obvious, simple factors that could draw in a mainstream buyer market — durability, haulability, power. As far as the looks, the design will very obviously appeal to some people and very obviously turn off others. The net effect of that matter is something I think no one knows, and I’ll discuss it more in the next section. It’s possible the look becomes a huge hit as the model gets more popular, but I wouldn’t bet on that right now and I don’t think that’s what would drive a high volume of sales.

Photo by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica.

That all focusing on the consumer side of the matter. There are also supplier side matters that could make the Cybertruck a hugely successful vehicle (or not). The idea with the casting is that it can drive down costs. First impression is that it hasn’t, but there are other matters that could obscure that. Clearly, Tesla hasn’t gotten to mass production with the truck yet, and it’s not till Tesla does so that we’ll know if this is really a big cost saver. With limited production and presumably much higher demand at the moment, Tesla can sell the Cybertruck at high prices to better cover the R&D and scaling costs of the new model. Heck, the company could probably sell trucks at $150,000 for a while and be fine moving every one they produce. The figures the truck is launching with basically match the market it’s in, and that’s good enough, but we don’t know yet if casting, stainless steel, and other factors unique to the Cybertruck will end up making the truck much more cost competitive than its competition. That’s potentially the difference between a niche product and a top seller. There’s also the reduction in wiring from the 48V battery, which some people are highlighting as the trucks’ biggest innovation, and the dramatic 800V system. Again, if these changes end up bringing down costs to a large degree (once at mass production), that could be a game changer for the Cybertruck and make it a real winner.

Without a doubt, I consider the above to be real possibilities for the Cybertruck that could make it a top selling vehicle in the US and the world. However, I also think there’s a second very different way the future could go for the Cybertruck. Let’s get into that It’s a Wonderful Life alternative.

Tesla Cybertruck Could Bomb for These Reasons

Photo courtesy of Brendan Miles and Mira Shahan.

Naturally, the first part of this alternative future has to be that the Cybertruck does not see massive mainstream demand because of its durability and power, or due to Tesla driving down costs well below the competition. It also assume the unique design of the Cybertruck doesn’t pull in a ton of buyers. In fact, a big factor that could potentially lead to this less successful future for the truck is people being turned off by the design. It could be that the design is too much of a block to closing sales and pulling in buyers that Tesla can’t get to the levels of mass production needed to drive down costs.

Yes, I know there were approximately a bazillion reservations — but there weren’t. There was an option to create as many reservations as you want with just $100 refundable deposits. Also, those deposits supposedly locked in the Full Self Driving (FSD) price at the time. I made 6 or so reservations, just to lock in that price ($6,000 at the time, versus $12,000 now and $15,000 a year ago). I didn’t have big expectations for FSD at that point (I did a few years prior), but it just seemed idiotic to not loan Tesla a few hundred dollars on the off chance I could get a handful of giant, durable, tough robotaxis a couple years later at a total steal if the software advanced enough. I’m not saying that’s the only reason for the high number of reservations, but it was definitely something that was widely understand and talked about. I’ve cancelled all but one of my reservations now, since robotaxi-level FSD isn’t here and the Cybertruck is. I’m likely to cancel my last reservation when they get to me, too, for another big reason I think the reservation list was inflatedit’s much more expensive now than it was projected to be when Tesla announced the truck, and it’s too expensive for me. (I’m also not keen about driving around in a giant vehicle, but that’s irrelevant anyway as long as it’s outside my price range.) In short, until a sale is closed, a reservation is just a fun idea that one might get a quirky, futuristic truck — but many of those reservations may not turn into sales. It was just too easy to get on the list (only $100, refundable) and too easy for over-exuberant fans or robotaxi speculators to put down money for a bunch of reservations (cough, cough).

And then there are those unique manufacturing techniques Tesla is using. Getting the Cybertruck to production has taken much longer than forecasted. There’s no real indication yet that the materials and manufacturing process are making it easier or cheaper to produce, and there’s still the non-zero possibility that they don’t lend themselves to low-cost mass manufacturing. There’s the possibility that there’s one problem after another trying to get to high-volume production of the truck and the Cybertruck ends up living in “production hell” rather than getting out of it. Much of the Cybertruck’s future is banking on these design and manufacturing innovations working very well at high volumes. Without that coming to fruition, even if the design is a hit, the truck could remain a much-lower-volume product than the Model Y, Model 3, or even Elon Musk’s forecast (150,000 a year). Of course, as I noted at the top, many fans are adamant that the manufacturing innovations, the gigacasting, the stainless steel, and so on will result in a revolution in the industry and the Cybertruck will be completely unmatched within a couple of years. We’ll see. It’s possible, but it’s also possible there are various unknown unknowns that will hamper mass production and keep costs high.

Final Cybertruck Thoughts … For Now

Screenshot from Marques Brownlee video.

I think it’s worth keeping an open mind on the future of the Cybertruck. Clearly, some people have their money (their real cash money) on the Cybertruck being a huge hit. That’s fine, but I hope it doesn’t warp the discussions too much, and I prefer to keep an open mind as much as possible about what the future could bring until the future is clear. One of the most fun and interesting things about the Cybertruck, to me, is that it’s so unpredictable. I cannot come to a strong conclusion on which of these futures above (or something in the middle) is more likely. I can’t get a solid read on how many people truly love the Cybertruck and will buy one or more. There’s the super excited fan base, but how broad does that go? How much do the features of the truck eventually sell the truck to mainstream buyers who are not in this initial excited fan base? How much does the unique look of the truck play a role in the truck becoming very popular or not popular at all? Many would like to know. Share any research you find.


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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7281 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan