Texas belt buckles. Super-sized silver cowboy boots. Drones making a giant Doge in the sky.
Elon Musk offered up several meme-able moments at Thursday’s “Cyber Rodeo” to open Tesla's Austin Gigafactory. But the one thing Tesla watchers are all talking about is the Cybertruck, which the world's richest man announced would be available in 2023. Attendees were shown the latest prototype, electrically dropping rear glass and all.
“We can’t wait to build this here,” said Musk as the vehicle rolled onto the stage. “Sorry for the delay, but you’re going to have this next year and it’s going to be great.”
It’s not the first time Musk has made such a promise. He’s been teasing the angular, electric truck since 2019, when he said it would go to market in 2021. As time went on, that became early 2022, then late 2022. In January, Musk told investors that a 2023 delivery was “likely” — not guaranteed. Along the way, the price for the Cybertruck also disappeared from the order page.
But that hasn't deterred the Tesla true believers, who have been clamoring for the truck since it was announced. Leading up to the evening event, plenty of speculation circulated on Reddit and Twitter that the "cyber" in Cyber Rodeo meant there would be big news about the truck. Now, we have the news, which amounts to a promise on a road littered with them.
There’s no doubt a market for electric trucks. The Ford F-150 is the most popular vehicle in America. While Tesla is the biggest EV seller in the U.S., the Cybertruck delays have allowed other companies to take the lead. Ford, for example, will start selling an electric version of their popular pickup this summer. Reservations for the F-150 Lightning have been so brisk, Ford said in January that it plans to crank out 150,000 of them per year to meet demand. Rivian also released its battery-powered truck late last year with much fanfare, though it's struggled with production holdups since. An electric Chevy Silverado is also coming soon, and a Hummer EV for some reason. In short, it's a market growing more crowded by the day and Tesla could well be slipping behind its competitors.
The prototype Tesla let fans examine up close Thursday is clearly far from final. There were large gaps between sheets of steel on the vehicle’s sides, while parts of the interior had low-quality finishes that seemed like placeholders. (Hopefully, anyways, for future Cybertruck owners' sakes.) It also still had the Model X yoke, with no airbag.
As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” While Musk's promise of a 2023 Cybertruck rollout sure sounds nice, it might be a mistake to count on Tesla delivering the goods.