EV pickup visionary Tesla now trails the pack

ev pickup visionary tesla now trails the pack
Cybertruck MAIN i

Tesla Cybertruck reservation holders are watching from the sidelines as shiny new Rivian R1T, Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer pickups are delivered to early adopters in the new and potentially lucrative EV truck segment.

Social media is full of early Lightning buyers towing boats, testing the charging rate and cautiously setting out on longer journeys during summer driving season. Rivian has been ramping pickup output since last year, and GMC is trickling out six-figure versions of the Hummer pickup.

Meanwhile, a new forecast suggests that the wildly styled Cybertruck may not make it into the hands of reservation holders until late 2023 at the earliest, behind the Chevrolet Silverado EV.

AutoForecast Solutions puts the start of Cybertruck production in the fourth quarter of next year — after the Silverado in spring 2023 and the GMC Sierra EV in the fall. Tesla’s full-size, stainless-steel-body pickup is, however, still expected to beat Stellantis into the EV pickup market.

Sam Fiorani, AutoForecast vice president of global vehicle forecasting, put Ram 1500 EV production in the fourth quarter of 2024. A bigger Ford F-Series SuperDuty should start rolling off the line at the automaker’s future BlueOval City plant in the second half of 2025, AutoForecast estimates.

“Other EV trucks will include the Hyundai and Kia pickups in 2026 along with Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon EVs that same year,” Fiorani said in an email to Automotive News.


Despite the Cybertruck’s delay, there are signs of life in Tesla’s vehicle development program. A new prototype of the electric pickup made an appearance at a California green-power event last week. And in late May, CEO Elon Musk pointed to an innovative new aluminum die-casting machine that will make its way from Italy to the truck’s factory in Austin, Texas.

“The hype behind the Cybertruck is definitely warranted and expectedly loud because Tesla fans have been patiently waiting for what — to them — has probably felt like an eternity,” said Robby DeGraff, industry analyst at AutoPacific.

“In just recent days, photos have emerged of what’s believed to be the production-intent model,” DeGraff said. “And Musk confirmed, via Twitter, that an Idra Giga Press is being assembled for the Cybertruck.”

Tesla is already using the enormous die-casting machines from Idra Group for other vehicles. Tesla was a pioneer is using the new tooling, which makes it possible for an automaker to produce a single large casting instead of multiple smaller ones that have to be welded together.


Tesla was also early to recognize the market for a mass-produced pickup to accelerate EV adoption and excite younger, tech-focused buyers.

When the Cybertruck was revealed in 2019, Musk promised production by 2021, beating rivals. In March of this year, Musk said Tesla plans to finish development of the pickup this year and start production in 2023.

Meanwhile, Ford said it delivered 201 Lightnings to dealers in May. Rivian had 1,145 R1T registrations in the first four months of the year, according to Experian, and GMC had 159 through April. Rivian and GMC don’t report monthly sales.

Ford has even ribbed Tesla fans by including a charging adapter for early Lightning buyers that allows the pickup to use its battery to charge a stranded Tesla. Also, one of the first Lightnings delivered went to a customer who canceled his Cybertruck order since the Ford EV arrived first.

For now, Tesla fans are hanging on Musk’s every word about Cybertruck development, confident that Tesla’s EV leadership will produce a superior vehicle that’s worth the wait.

On Twitter, Musk responded with the comment “Cybertruck body” below a video of Idra’s NEO 9000 Giga Press being assembled in Italy. And in response to a video of the Cybertruck prototype in California, he wrote, “It will be our best product ever imo,” meaning “in my opinion.”

The prototype appeared at a Pacific Gas and Electric event to mark the installation of Tesla Megapack batteries at a renewable energy facility in Moss Landing, Calif.

Photographers were able to take images of the truck’s interior, which takes cues from current Tesla vehicles. The prototype had the yoke-style steering wheel now standard in the freshened Tesla Model S and X, along with a large center screen and instrument cluster that mimic those vehicles.

YouTube content creator Ryan Shaw, who presents Tesla news and commentary to his 182,000 subscribers, said earlier prototypes omitted the instrument cluster. That had sparked some guessing since Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y have only the center screen and not the instrument panel.

“Lots could change before the final version of the Cybertruck comes out for real, but it seems very, very likely that this is the current prototype they are going with, and by the time the Cybertruck launches, it will have both displays,” Shaw said in his video last week.

Other new prototype details include a smaller, single windshield wiper and a center console between the front seats similar to other Tesla vehicles.


One big question mark about the Cybertruck is the price. At the 2019 Cybertruck reveal, Musk announced starting prices between $39,900 and $69,900, depending on trim, excluding shipping. Tesla has since removed the non-binding pricing from its website.

Musk said during a recent earnings call that affordability is a challenge with all of the advanced technology being developed for the pickup.

Tesla has steadily raised prices for all its vehicles to cover increases in material costs. The compact Model 3 sedan — its most inexpensive vehicle — starts at $48,440, including shipping. The base Model Y crossover starts at $64,440. At the top end, the Model X SUV starts above $100,000.

Among the current EV pickup competitors on sale, the Lightning runs from just under $40,000, excluding shipping, to just over $90,000. The Rivian R1T starts at $67,500 but can easily be optioned to over $100,000. Hummer prices range from just over $80,000 to just over $110,000.

“Although it’ll be one of the latter EV trucks to arrive on sale, trailing behind Rivian’s R1T, the GMC Hummer EV pickup, and Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Tesla apparently has a tidal wave of pre-orders,” said AutoPacific’s DeGraff.

“According to a crowd-sourced unofficial tracker, there’s currently far more than a million reservations,” he added. “Obviously, we’ll need to see how realistically that translates into actual orders, but I predict the Cybertruck will be a smash hit regardless of how much it actually costs.”


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