Elon Musk was uncharacteristically cautious about Tesla’s next big vehicle on Wednesday, and his comments may lead some on Wall Street to lower their initial expectations for the Cybertruck.
The sci-fi-sounding electric car that looks like it would be at home on the moon or on Musk’s favorite planet, Mars, has already been a source of lost expectations. First revealed as a prototype in 2019, its production has been repeatedly delayed.
Early in the company’s conference call with analysts and investors on Wednesday, CEO Musk said he wanted to emphasize “that there will be tremendous challenges in getting to volume production with the Cybertruck, and then making the Cybertruck cash flow positive.”
It announced third-quarter earnings that fell short of Wall Street expectations, and combined with Musk’s comments on “tempering expectations,” its stock fell more than 4% in after-hours trading, after an initial rise. Musk may have caused some confusion among investors with his positive tweets on Wednesday afternoon in which he said the first deliveries of the Cybertruck were scheduled for November 30, but he then seemed very cautious about that during the call.
He did not say exactly how many Cybertrucks he believed Tesla could produce in the initial phase this year, and said volume production would not occur until 2025.
One investor asked how many Cybertrucks Tesla might be able to deliver in 2024.
“The more unknown the area, the less predictable the outcome is,” Musk said. “If you say, ‘Okay, where does it end?’” I think we will eventually get close to a quarter of a million Turkish cyber trucks a year. I don’t think we will reach this production rate next year. “I think we’ll probably reach that goal sometime in 2025. That’s my best guess.”
In its presentation to shareholders, in a graph about its factory capacity, Tesla indicated that its giant factory in Texas has a capacity of more than 125,000 units. But the way Musk has reduced production volumes, it seems unlikely he will reach that number this year, and 2024 is another question.
“This is simply normal,” Musk said. “When you have a product with a lot of new technology, or any brand new vehicle software, but especially a product as differentiated and advanced as the Cybertruck, you’re going to have problems proportional to the number of new things you’re trying to solve at scale.”
“We dug our own grave for Cybertruck,” Musk added. “Nobody digs their own graves, and that’s just the way it is – the Cybertruck is one of those truly special products that only comes around once in a long time.”
Not only was Musk cautious about the timing of the Cybertruck, he also said he was concerned about the impact of rising interest rates on the car-buying public, as most consumers buy cars on payment plans that accrue interest.
He was vague and did not answer specifically when asked about the company’s current timeline for robotaxis. He announced in 2019 that there would be 1 million Tesla robotaxis on the road next year.
He said demand for the Cybertruck is “off the charts,” with one million people taking reservations. Cybertrucks are starting to be seen more often in the wild in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the columnist actually spotted one on Sunday.
It should be noted that Musk is currently being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for his failure to testify before regulators investigating his disclosures related to his ownership of Twitter shares prior to his final $44 billion deal to take the social media company private last year. Maybe Musk will, for once, listen to Tesla’s lawyer — or his own — about the dangers of making overly enthusiastic predictions. Or maybe he’s concerned that production is going slower than expected.
With Musk, investors never know what kind of shenanigans could be afoot. But it is always advisable to take anything he says with caution.
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