The Tesla Cybertruck Is Elon Musk’s Vanity Project And Style Statement: Expert

Algorithms have probably fed you a barrage of Tesla Cybertruck updates on social media over the past 24 hours. Now that the boisterous delivery event is over, and the internet storm somewhat subsided, we have room to zero in on some lingering questions. How exactly does the Cybertruck compare to the traditional trucks? Does it deserve mainstream truck buyers’ attention? Will it accrue volumes overseas? InsideEVs spoke to two industry veterans for insights.

Tesla reiterated the utilitarian aspects of the Cybertruck at the delivery event, but it could have limitations in that area, said Ed Kim, the president and chief analyst of automotive research and product-consulting firm Auto Pacific. “Pickup trucks, even those bought by purely recreational customers who don’t use them for truck things, are about function first.” Kim believes the Cybertruck’s practical aspects come second to the appearance and hype around it. “The very appeal of a pickup is its utility. The Cybertruck is a style and image statement first and foremost,” he added.

Its high bed rails make access to the bed difficult. The windshield angle will make it more difficult for vocational users with a full complement of gear attached to them to get in and out of the Cybertruck easily.

CEO Elon Musk previously estimated that Tesla would produce between 250,000 and 500,000 Cybertrucks annually when the plant runs at full capacity. That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. “Its niche design and steep price tag, mean that it is not, at least right now, a high-volume product,” said Jessica Caldwell, the head of insights at Edmunds. It might only appeal to a small portion of the market that loves it, and an exclusive customer base that can afford it. “Trucks generally transact in the $60,000 region, and that version is unavailable till 2025. What they showed is probably closer to the GMC Hummer EV than something mainstream,” Caldwell added.

Kim felt the same. Despite garnering an estimated two million plus reservations, the Cybertruck could have a finite audience, he said. Once the fanboys and “attention seekers” get their hands on it, its popularity could wane. That could be an antithesis to the Model 3 and Model Y which continue to sell like hotcakes globally. The latter might become the 2023’s best-selling car of all categories this year, and potentially the first EV to claim that revered title—but that’s just an estimation until we see the final sales numbers. “Once that audience has gotten their Cybertrucks, will a more mainstream audience line up behind them? My gut says no because its design priorities aren’t focused on how truck customers use their trucks,” Kim said.

The Cybertruck seems more like a vanity project for Elon Musk than a strategic product developed to continue Tesla’s stratospheric growth in recent years. This is particularly problematic in that the Cybertruck will have a limited audience outside of North America, unlike the brand’s other products which are very globally relevant.

On the pricing front, Tesla said in 2019 that the Cybertruck would start at $39,000, and top out at just under $70,000. But a lot has changed since—a pandemic, wars impacting global supply chains, and rising inflation are among several other anchors dragging the world economy. Now the base rear-wheel-drive Cybertruck (due in 2025) starts at $60,990, the all-wheel-drive version is priced at $79,990, while the Cyberbeast variant begins at nearly $100,000 before options. “The [initial] price point seemed suspect even before the pandemic-induced supply crunch era,” said Kim. “That’s unsurprising considering its presumably costly and unconventional stainless steel construction.”

But you don’t have to buy this ultimate hype machine. For the same amount of money, there are some great pure electric, hybrid, and gas options out there—models that don’t have a five-year waiting period, and ones that you can actually get your hands on before your hair turns grey. It might turn fewer heads out on the streets, and it might not beat a Porsche 911 in a drag race, but it will likely get the job done.

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