Tesla's Cybertruck Elon Musk

Cybertruck production has begun ahead of a presumed fall delivery event. And the price? Who cares.

To date, CT (Cybertruck) posts on social media have been shots of camo CTs on the move, interior videos, and drone pics of the gigafactory in Austin.

What’s different* this week is the appearance of car carriers (see bottom) loaded up with new CTs.

So, who are these vehicles for and where are they going? In Tesla’s Q2 2023 Update released in July the company referred to shipped Cybertrucks as “release candidate builds” and said it is doing testing around the world for final certification and validation.

Social media consensus points to crash testing units. Meanwhile, the approximately two million people who have placed orders will probably have to wait. Volume production for customers isn’t expected until next year.

Cybertruck Price? Kelley Blue Book says…

Conspicuously absent from all of the excitement is a discussion about price.

Originally, price was a major talking point for CEO Elon Musk, who said it would start at $39,900. That price point is important for prospective — and highly practical — blue-collar buyers, who are not necessarily Tesla fanatics and who might be tempted to switch to an electric pickup if it’s affordable.

But Musk backed away from this in May at the Annual Shareholder meeting, saying “It’s going to be hard to make [it] affordable because it is a new car, a new manufacturing method.”

That may mean a $39,900 Cybertruck (if that was realistic to begin with) will suffer the same fate as the $25,000 vehicle that Musk used to talk about.

Original Cybertruck pricing that Tesla released in 2019:

Single Motor RWD with 250+ miles of range, $39,900

Dual Motor AWD with 300+ miles of range, $49,900

Tri Motor AWD with 500+ miles of range,$69,900

I asked Matt Degen, senior editor for Kelley Blue Book, what he expects the price to be.

“We currently estimate it will start at around $50,000. That would put it right in line with the mass-market Ford F-150 Lightning (which starts at $49,995),” he told me in an email, referring to Ford’s first electric pickup.

And what about not hitting the original price target?

“I’m not surprised by the price change. Keep in mind, the same thing happened with the Lightning, to a point. When sales started it was also marketed at $40,000. And some early models may have sold around that price. But then the base price quickly increased. Then, this past summer, it decreased to what it is now,” Degen said.

The elusive affordable EV

These days, EV consumers don’t seem to bat an eye at a $60K** price tag ($60K was the average price of a home in the the U.S. in the 1980s).

And with a couple million reservations for the Cybertruck, questions about whether Tesla will offer a $39,900 CT may be irrelevant. Musk said in July that demand for the vehicle is “so off the hook, you can’t even see the hook.”

That said, Tesla changes prices constantly. “The price of the forthcoming Cybertruck is a moving target,” said Degen. So Musk, who does seem to try to make his cars more affordable, may get to $39,900 some day.

In the meantime, buyers can take advantage of hefty incentives. Combined federal and state subsidies can be as much as $15K (California). Tesla is pushing incentives hard these days as a way to bring down the price of its cars. On its Inventory sales page the $7,500 federal tax credit is in big bold blue highlights at the top.

Going forward, who knows what will happen in the age of Cybertruck — likely a watershed in Tesla’s quest to become the world’s largest carmaker by output.

“Musk is correct in pointing out that this is an all-new model being built at a new factory,” said Degen. That factory may have all kinds of potential for driving down costs — and the price — in the future.

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