Tesla's Cybertruck getting closer — but forget about it being affordable

Tesla's Cybertruck getting closer — but forget about it being affordable

Tesla has started sending out invitations for a Cybetruck delivery event in November.
Tesla

Tesla will start deliveries of the long-awaited Cybertruck in November. 
But it’s still unclear how much the truck will cost. 
Tesla originally quoted a starting price of $39,900, but it’ll probably be much more expensive than that — at least initially. 

After years of delays and teasers, Elon Musk’s outlandish Cybertruck pickup is set to land in customers’ driveways on November 30. So long-suffering Tesla fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief, right?

Maybe not. It’s still unclear how much the Cybertruck will cost at launch — and all signs point to it not being cheap.

When Tesla announced the Cybertruck in late 2019, it advertised a highly appealing starting price of $39,900, roughly matching the average cost of a new car at the time. Two higher-performance models would run customers $49,900 and $59,900.

In 2021, all that information vanished from Tesla’s website, leaving future customers in the dark about their dream truck’s eventual price.

Musk tempers expectations about an affordable Cybertruck

On Tesla’s earnings call on Wednesday, Musk attempted to dispel any expectations of an accessible Cybertruck — at least initially.

“It is going to require immense work to reach volume production and be cash-flow positive at a price that people can afford,” Musk said.

Affordability in manufacturing is all about scale. The more trucks Tesla can churn out of its Texas Gigafactory, the cheaper it can sell each one for. And Musk said he foresees “enormous challenges” in ramping up Cybertruck production, mainly because the unusual truck requires new manufacturing processes.

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“If you want to do something radical and innovative and something really special like the Cybertruck, it is extremely difficult because there’s nothing to copy,” Musk said on Wednesday’s call. “You have to invent not just the car but the way to make the car.”

Musk said Tesla could hit a production rate of 250,000 trucks per year sometime in 2025. In the meantime, it would make sense for the company to prioritize the most expensive Cybertruck configurations before expanding to lower-priced options.

Ed Kim, chief analyst at the auto-industry consulting firm AutoPacific, recently told Insider he believes the Cybertruck will come with a “fairly premium” price tag, given that it will be made from pricey stainless steel that will likely necessitate more expensive stamping equipment.

Moreover, he said, battery prices haven’t dropped as much as people expected four years ago, and the Cybertruck won’t benefit from the economies of scale of Tesla’s more mainstream Model Y SUV and Model 3 sedan. (Tesla has delivered some 1.3 million cars during the first three quarters this year, mostly 3s and Ys.)

Electric truck competition has arrived

Unlike four years ago, there are a few electric pickups on the market, and none of the Cybertruck’s direct competitors are terribly affordable. Plus, new vehicle prices have risen dramatically overall.

The 2023 F-150 Lightning starts at roughly $50,000, but that’s for a bare-bones work truck with a so-so 240 miles of range. For some more creature comforts and the optional 320-mile battery pack, prepare to shell out around $70,000.

A Rivian R1T will run you $73,000 and up. The GMC Hummer EV, a pickup with the same brash appeal as the Cybertruck and 329 miles of range, hit the market with a price tag north of $100,000.

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Tesla’s website says the Cybertruck will offer up to 500 miles of range and hit 60 mph in a brisk 2.9 seconds. It’s tough to imagine that top-tier model costing much less than $100,000, given what else is out there.