The Cybertruck marks Tesla’s 1st entry into the highly competitive pickup truck market in the US
by DANA HULL, ED LUDLOW & TOM RANDALL
AFTER two years of delays and production snags, Tesla Inc has finally handed the first Blade Runner-esque Cybertrucks over to customers.
CEO Elon Musk delivered a handful of vehicles to their new owners on Nov 30, including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The handovers at Tesla’s Austin headquarters were part of a live-streamed launch event on X, the social media platform Musk owns.
The Cybertruck comes in three configurations: Rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and the so-called Cyberbeast. The cheapest version of the Cybertruck will cost US$60,990 (RM284,823), which is more than 50% over the price Musk floated when he announced the vehicle in 2019. That version, a rear-wheel drive model with a battery range of 250 miles (420.34km), won’t be available until 2025. Tesla is offering delivery next year for the two more expensive models, including the Cyberbeast, which has a price tag of nearly US$100,000.
“It’s a lot more expensive than I thought,” said Deepwater Asset Management managing partner Gene Munster. “They need to get production up to get the price down, and they know they can’t produce a lot of them next year. The reality is that the Cybertruck isn’t really out yet.”
The Cybertruck marks Tesla’s first entry into the highly competitive pickup truck market in the US, and the move has been met with excitement, but also heavy criticism and doubt. One analyst suggested two weeks ago that the automaker should cancel the Cybertruck altogether because it’s unlikely to be profitable, while Musk himself has lamented how “insanely difficult” the vehicle is to produce.
When Tesla started taking deposits for the Cybertruck in 2019, it marketed starting prices ranging from US$39,900 to US$69,900.
The electric vehicle (EV) maker’s website shows “probable savings” for the Cybertruck models including federal tax credits and estimated gas savings over three years. The company calculates the cheapest version will cost US$49,890 with those savings. Musk said on Nov 30 he’s confident it would meet buyers’ needs, whether they be flash or utility. The Cybertruck is “a better truck than truck while also being a better sports car than a sports car”, Musk said to the audience.
The fastest Cybertruck can reach 60mph from a standstill in 2.6 seconds, as fast as a Porsche 911 Turbo S — though not as quick as a Tesla Model S Plaid. Tesla said it can tow up to 11,000 lbs, more than a battery-powered Ford F-150 Lightning and some gas-fuelled F-150 models. It also boasts a 17-inch ground clearance, which is more than all versions of the F-150 and electric Rivian R1T pickup.
But the cheapest Cybertruck is thousands of dollars more than the commercial grade electric F-150, which starts at US$49,995, and the base retail model starting at US$54,995.
“It’s an incredibly useful truck,” Musk said. “It’s not just a grand-standing showpiece — like me.”
The Cyberbeast is capable of having more than 440 miles of range by adding an additional tool-box-sized battery against the back of the cab in the bed. The specs were confirmed by Tesla’s power-train chief in a message on X.
Tesla’s web page for the Cybertruck includes details that Musk didn’t discuss during his presentation, including the “theatre on wheels” with front and back touch screens and “recording studio sound dynamics.”
No Paint Needed
Tesla designed its stainless-steel Cybertuck to be something special: The first vehicle for the masses that doesn’t require paint. It’s no easy feat. The only other company to come close, DeLorean, sold just 9,000 cars before filing for bankruptcy in 1982.
When Tesla starts Cybertruck deliveries on Nov 30, though, it may have a devised a cheat that DeLorean couldn’t: Colour wraps. A decorative film applied to the vehicle’s exterior — and a lucrative upsell Tesla has been trying out in California — could soften the edges of a vehicle seen as too harsh for mainstream buyers.
“It looks a lot more attractive with these wraps on it,” said Jessica Caldwell, head of insights for Edmunds, while scrolling through images of Cybertruck test vehicles spotted with custom prints. Across the auto industry, there’s been a notable shift toward boxy “masculine” automotive designs, compared to the bubble-shaped SUVs that have long dominated, Caldwell said. Tesla just went “maybe a bit too far”.
Seven Colours to Start
Wrapping vehicles in colourful coatings is nothing new. Wraps can make a Ferrari look like a chrome-plated bullet or transform a sketchy work van into a luminous billboard for lawn-care services. While some people think the Cybertruck looks like a refrigerator on wheels, others will see a blank canvas.
Most wraps require custom installations performed by third-party garages. In an industry first, Tesla quietly started offering in-house wraps for the Model 3 and Model Y in October — a possible trial run ahead of the first Cybertruck deliveries. The company has yet to say whether wraps will be offered for the Cybertruck specifically, but when asked in 2020 whether the truck would be available in colour, Musk replied: “You will be able to wrap it in any colour or pattern.”
Car wraps come in two varieties: Form-fitted vinyl wraps and colour-infused paint protection film (PPF). Vinyl wraps are cheaper — typically in the range of US$3,000 to US$5,000 — and offer more options for customisation. PPF is nearly twice as expensive but provides greater durability and protection.
The wraps Tesla started offering for the Model 3 and Model Y are of the latter variety — a high-end film made to resist grime and able heal itself after minor scratches. (The company said damage caused by some automated car washes, for example, typically vanishes within 48 hours.) Tesla charges US$7,500 to US$8,000 to wrap the Model 3 and Model Y, with a choice of seven mellow colours, from “Satin Rose Gold” to “Stealth Black”.
The company hasn’t mentioned the possibility of customisation, but Cybertrucks have been spotted with at least 10 detailed patterns and logo designs that would typically only be possible in vinyl. Those include a pair of neon Cybertruck logos sprayed across the doors, graffiti-style; Cybertrucks humorously made to look like a Ford F-150 and a Toyota Tundra; and several unusual takes on camouflage.
The idea of in-house Cybertruck wraps — Cyberwraps, if you will — may have been part of Tesla’s plan from the start. When the Cybertruck was being designed, Tesla had just undergone an excruciating production ramp-up for the Model 3 that, according to
Musk, nearly bankrupted the company. Many problems originated in the paint shop. Automotive paint is expensive and finicky. It clogs, coagulates, ripples and peels if the mix of chemicals isn’t perfect. It’s also the biggest source of pollution from car factories, responsible for over half of carbon dioxide emissions and more than 95% of toxic volatile organic compound emissions. With the Cybertruck, Tesla has a chance to
forgo the paint shop altogether. In-house wraps could also be highly profitable. The materials aren’t expensive, and most of the cost is tied to the tedious hours of labour required to apply them. The film must be stretched, smoothed, snipped and tucked precisely around every headlight, door handle, logo and trim piece. The Cybertruck’s expansive flat panels seem purpose-built make that work a breeze.
Profit from those US$8,000 wraps, along with the US$12,000 price tag on Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) driver-assistance features, could help keep the Cybertruck base price lower for value-oriented buyers. Capturing multiple segments of the truck market will be key if Tesla is to reach its sales target of 250,000 trucks a year.
Screaming for Attention
Even if Tesla doesn’t offer wraps from the start, the opportunity isn’t going to be lost on third-party wrap installers, which have been preparing for Cybertruck’s release since 2019. Wrapmate, a vinyl-wrap company based in Colorado, said it will custom wrap a Cybertruck for US$4,163. That includes design assistance, materials and installation by partner garages across the US.
“For businesses, I think this is a great idea,” said Caldwell from Edmunds. “Obviously Cybertruck is very noticeable on the road and will draw attention when you wrap it with your business logo.”
If the past is any indication, Tesla will likely spend much of Nov 30’s launch party on stunts meant to convince customers of the Cybertruck’s toughness: Clips of low-calibre bullets emptied into the door panels, mud-flinging displays of off-road prowess, feats of towing strength equivalent to 1,000 horses.
But perhaps the biggest test, said Caldwell, will be whether customers will feel comfortable driving the thing out in public. Musk’s divisive engagement in right-wing politics over the past year only adds to the problem of driving a vehicle that screams for attention, she said.
“People wanted to be part of his movement, and it really helped Tesla sell vehicles,” Caldwell said. “Now, they are launching this vehicle when his popularity is very different. People will be a lot less forgiving.” — Bloomberg
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition