Will Rivian's Fully-Electric R1T Pickup and Ford's F-150 Lightning Prompt Tesla to Further Delay the Launch of the Cybertruck?
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk made a suprise announcement on Thursday saying he's moving the company's headquarters from Palo Alto, Calif. to Austin, Texas. Tesla is already building a second U.S. assembly plant as well as a battery factory outside of Austin, so the move makes sense from a business standpoint, as Texas is more tax friendly to corporations like Tesla. It's one of the reasons that Tesla is building its second U.S. factory there
While Musk's announcement made headlines around the world, Tesla's newest rival Rivian is getting ready to begin the first deliveries of its rugged R1T electric pickup truck and customers are lining up to buy one.
In addition to newcomer Rivian, Ford Motor Co is launching its electric F-150 Lightning in the spring of 2022, and General Motors recently announced that it will debut the electric Chevy Silverado pickup at CES in Jan 2022.
So by the time Tesla launches its Cybertruck in late 2022 at the earliest, the market will be occupied by three electric pickups with a more conservative and traditional design, which will make it much harder for Tesla to compete in the segment.
The buzz surrounding the launch of Ford's F-150 Lightning and Rivian's R1T electric pickup have for the most part overshadowed Tesla's futuristic looking Cybertruck, which was originally supposed to debut later this year. But Tesla announced in early September that it pushed forward that timeline until at least late 2022, as the company focused on its more mainstream vehicles - the Model 3 and Model Y.
Tesla unveiled its Cybertruck in Nov 2019 in a livestream event. During the unveiling, Musk touted the strength of the Cybertruck's high-strength "armor glass" by throwing a heavy metal ball at the driver side window.
The ball was supposed to just bounce off the glass with no damage, but things didn't go as planned and lead designer Franz von Holzhausen smashed two of the cybertruck's "armor glass" windows on stage.
For Musk, its was a bit of an embarrassment. But to his credit, the truck's window was previously hit with a sledgehammer beforehand and was able to withstand the blow.
Musk was able to move forward through the rest of the presentation without any other incidents. Despite the broken windows, Musk said Tesla received more than 200,000 preorders for the Cybertruck, boasting that the company reached that impressive number "with no advertising & no paid endorsement."
But that was in 2019, which is a long time in the auto industry. At the time, there was no real talk of an electric F-150, or buzz about the Rivian R1T. Musk seemed to be on the cusp of bringing the first ever fully-electric pickup to market. But that didn't happen according to plan.
Now with the timeline of the Cybertruck's launch pushed forward to late 2022, it will enter a highly competitive truck market that's currently dominated by gas-powered full-size pickups and SUVs from General Motors, Ford and Ram.
But with electric versions of these vehicles and others like the Hummer EV in the works, Tesla will likely face an uphill battle for market share and find it difficult to sell enough of the odd-looking Cybertrucks to make a profit and justify its expensive engineering and development costs.
Truck buyers can be a finicky bunch, and brand loyalty remains strong. The question is, will electric truck buyers actually embrace the Cybertruck or opt for the more conventional looking and practical Rivian R1T, F-150 Lightning or electric Chevy Silverado.
There's really no way to know at this point. But Cybertruck preorders have steadily risen and have now topped 1.2 million, according to Tesla. It's important to note however, that pre orders do not mean guaranteed sales. Anyone can reserve a Cybertruck on Tesla's website for $100, which is fully refundable if a customer changes their mind.
Customers shopping for an electric truck that do change their mind will have other options that weren't around when Musk unveiled the Cybertruck in 2019. Many truck fans are eager to get behind the wheel of an electric Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lightning for a test drive.
These trucks won't have the futuristic looks of the Tesla Cybertruck, but they will have everyday practicality and high tech features, which is what makes the Model 3 and Model Y so appealing to consumers.
Tesla is now the world's most valuable automaker with a market cap topping $775 billion, so its can afford to spend some of it for the Cybertruck's development. But making such a big investment in an electric vehicle that could end up being a low-volume model might not be the best decision for Tesla as a public company.
Perhaps the company should focus on building its rumored $25,000 EV instead. At that price point, the vehicle will likely become a huge seller.
The Cybertruck will start at $39,900 for the Single Motor RWD model version and will have a range of around 250 miles. The Dual Motor AWD model starts at $49,900 and will have a range of over 300 miles. The top-of-the-line Tri Motor will cost $69,900, and Tesla says its range will be over 500 miles.
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