In response to a petition to the NHTSA complaining about “sudden unexpected acceleration” in a variety of Tesla models and model years, Tesla issued a forceful statement today claiming that the allegations are “completely false.” Tesla opened its statement by identifying the petitioner as a “Tesla short-seller;” on Friday, CNBC reported that the petition was brought by Brian Sparks, an independent investor who “is currently shorting Tesla stock.”
“We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input,” Tesla says. “In every case where we had the vehicle’s data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed.”
Tesla has had a long and contentious relationship with government regulators, including the NHTSA and NTSB. But in today’s statement, Tesla says that it is “transparent with the NHTSA, and routinely [reviews] customer complaints of unintended acceleration with them.” The company says it has discussed a majority of complaints alleged in the petition with regulators, and found that “the data proved the vehicle functioned properly.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long railed against short sellers, claiming they spread lies about his company and are being funded by oil companies. As he once told The New York Times, he believes short sellers are “desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction.” Musk’s attempt to take his company private to defend against short sellers resulted in him being sued by the SEC.
The NHTSA said it would review the petition as part of its “standard practice in such matters.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday that it is weighing whether to launch an investigation into “sudden unexpected acceleration” of 500,000 Tesla vehicles, according to Reuters.
The petition covers Tesla Model S (2012-2019 model year), Model X (2016-2019), and Model 3 (2018-2019) vehicles, Reuters says. It also cites 127 consumer complaints, 123 unique vehicles, 110 crashes, and 52 injuries. A spokesperson for Tesla did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
“As is the agency’s standard practice in such matters, NHTSA will carefully review the petition and relevant data,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement.
Anyone can submit a petition requesting NHTSA to open an investigation into an alleged safety defect. After conducting a technical analysis, the agency’s Office of Defects Investigation informs the petitioner whether it will move forward with an investigation.
This isn’t the first time that Tesla has faced accusations of malfunctioning vehicles. In November 2018, the electric automaker resolved a class action lawsuit from customers who claimed their Model S and X vehicles would suddenly accelerate without warning. Another lawsuit was filed last year by Mena Massoud, star of Disney’s live-action Aladdin, who claimed a faulty suspension caused the wheel of his Model 3 to come off a day after he bought it. And most recently, NHTSA opened an investigation into complaints about vehicle fires connected to the battery management systems in some Model S and X vehicles.
Tesla has also come under fire over safety concerns involving its advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot. The National Transportation Safety Board announced plans yesterday to hold a public hearing in February to determine the probable cause of the fatal crash of a Tesla in Mountain View, California in 2017.
There have been a number of reports of Tesla owners crashing their vehicles while using Autopilot, as well as a handful of people who have been killed while using Autopilot. Tesla has consistently said that drivers who use Autopilot are safer than those who don’t.
Tesla has started rolling out a massive holiday update that was previously teased by CEO Elon Musk last week, including a “Full Self-Driving sneak preview.” It also includes long-awaited features like reading text messages aloud, a “camping mode,” and more.
The “full self-driving” sneak preview is mainly an improvement on the driving visualizations that appear in-car. The new visualization can now “display additional objects that include stoplights, stop signs, and select road markings.” The update notes, however, that stop signs and stoplight visualizations “are not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car.” Here’s the visualization in action:
One of the biggest feature updates allows driver to listen to and send messages via Tesla’s built-in voice commands. What seems like a basic ability for any modern car was previously unavailable. Tesla doesn’t use other third-party services like Apple Carplay or Android Auto, according to Tesla news site Electrek, but customers have requested the feature for years.
Tesla’s update notes specify customers can “now read and respond to text messages using your right scroll wheel button.” When drivers receive a new text message, all they have to do is “press the right scroll wheel button to have your text message read out loud and press again to respond by speaking out loud.” Customers will also be able to view messages via the “Cards” section on the touchscreen. The feature won’t work with group texts, and notifications on phones must be enabled.
Another long requested feature, going back to the Model S launch in 2012, is the release of Camp Mode. The update will allow customers who want to use their vehicles for camping situations to “maintain airflow, temperature, interior lighting, as well as play music, and power devices when Camp Mode is enabled.” Although Tesla issued a software update in 2017 that allowed for climate control features to run for an extended length of time, this new update marks the first official Camp Mode. Its arrival comes just one month after Musk revealed Tesla’s new vehicle, the Cybertruck. A camper configuration will be available to purchase, making the mode somewhat essential.
Of course, a Tesla update wouldn’t be complete without a few fun additions. There are a couple of new games available to play on the center console, but the more exciting addition is TRAX. TRAX is a digital audio workstation, similar to Apple’s Garage Band that’s available on MacBook and Mac devices. Once in park, customers have the ability to mess around and make their own songs on the fly. Here’s YouTuber Oliver “Ov” Ryan playing the theme song to Nickelodeon’s Rugrats:
As the decade has gone on, the occurrence of Elon Musk events has increased, and a brief glance back at the timeline shows this isn’t just a psychological phenomenon: Elon really is Elonning more often.
Cast your memory back, if you will, to the reaches of Very Recent History. At the beginning of this decade, Tesla had just one car: the Roadster. SpaceX had not yet secured a commercial crew contract for NASA. Neuralink, the company attempting to create commercialized brain-machine interfaces, didn’t yet exist, nor did the Boring Company, Musk’s tunneling concern.
The highlights of the last ten years, from AirPower to Google Wave
Back then, Musk was still best known for getting fired from PayPal. And while Tesla had built the Roadster in 2008, wowing car nerds with its acceleration, it was still a niche product. Plus, both SpaceX and Tesla nearly went bankrupt in 2008. So while it’s possible Musk was saying as much weird shit as he would say later on, he didn’t have the same kind of spotlight on him; the stakes were lower.
Then, in 2010, three significant Elon events occurred, which would set the stage for more to follow: in June, SpaceX launched the first version of the Falcon 9, and Tesla went public. In October, Tesla took occupancy of the former NUMMI factory in Fremont, California.
From here, the pace of Elon-related activity would only accelerate. Some of this was inevitable: SpaceX and Tesla were taking on new business challenges, launching new products (literally, in SpaceX’s case), and becoming more popular. That meant Musk’s pronouncements took on a new weight and received more media coverage. It also meant that Musk was trotting himself out more often: because Tesla doesn’t advertise, promoting the brand meant Musk had to serve as a celebrity hypeman.
After the initial 2010 launch of the Falcon 9, SpaceX became the first private company to dock at the International Space Station in May 2012. The Dragon spacecraft went on to be a major way that NASA delivered supplies to the ISS. By April 2015, SpaceX had flown seven missions to the space station. In 2014, NASA deepened its relationship with SpaceX, contracting the company to develop a version of its Dragon capsule for people.
Things began shifting in 2015. In December, SpaceX landed its first rocket. Before this, there’d been some skepticism about Musk’s idea of a reusable rocket as a possibility at all — and some skepticism still exists about whether it’s a reasonable cost-cutting measure. (Refurbishing a rocket is expensive.) But after this initial landing, SpaceX so routinely landed its first stages that people began to take them for granted. In December 2017, SpaceX launched and landed its first reused rocket. In 2018, SpaceX flew the first Falcon Heavy, sending Musk’s Tesla Roadster into orbit.
The launches did not go entirely smoothly. In June 2015, a Falcon 9 exploded a few minutes after launch when a strut failed in the rocket’s upper stage liquid oxygen tank. The second rocket blew up during fueling in September 2016 — and this time, there was a whiff of scandal, as sabotage was considered among the reasons for the explosion. This explosion was ultimately chalked up to a problem with the helium tanks, carbon fiber composites, and solid oxygen. The two explosions delayed SpaceX’s other planned launches as the company investigated to determine their causes. There was a third explosion in 2017, but this one didn’t slow the slate of flights since it was just an engine on a test stand. A fourth explosion happened in April 2019 when a test version of the Crew Dragon — the SpaceX vehicle meant for people — blew apart. Leaky valve, propellant, boom.
In September 2016, Musk presented plans for his proposed attempt to create a Mars settlement. In an hour-long presentation — here’s a truncated version — Musk introduced the Interplanetary Transport System: a spaceship and rocket. (There were, obviously, a lot of unanswered questions left after the presentation.) This system was updated in 2017, and Musk said he planned to put all of SpaceX’s resources into the Mars mission; this does not seem to have happened yet.
As SpaceX was flexing, the rocket launch market began to change. The commercial market for launching satellites into geostationary orbit was “very soft” in 2017 and 2018, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said. That threw a wrench into SpaceX’s plans. In financial documents dating from 2015, which were obtained by The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX had projected more than 40 launches; there were actually 20. In 2019, SpaceX had estimated 52 launches — one every week — and there were, in fact, 12, with two more scheduled before the end of the year.
The slowing market for commercial satellites — and the smaller number of rockets needed to launch them — meant that SpaceX needed to retool its plans. Now, since SpaceX is a private company and doesn’t have to make its planning public, I can only speculate about what that entailed.
It may be why SpaceX dipped its toe into space tourism. In 2018, Musk announced that Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and founder of Zozotown, Japan’s largest online clothing retailer, will be the first private customer to ride around the Moon on the company’s future ship, which was rebranded from the Interplanetary Transport System to Starship. But betting on the billionaire might not be such a good idea since he tweeted in May that he was broke. SoftBank’s Yahoo Japan has since acquired Maezawa’s Zozo, an online fashion retailer, for $3.7 billion. So, presumably, the trip is still on.
Space tourism isn’t SpaceX’s only moneymaking strategy. SpaceX is also venturing into the realms of telecommunication with its Starlink venture, which may begin offering broadband services as early as next year. (Take that projection with a grain of salt: in 2011, Musk said he’d put a person in space in three years. It is 2019, and a human has yet to fly aboard a SpaceX rocket.) Starlink is a proposed constellation of at least 12,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, though the company has asked for an additional 30,000 satellites. Astronomers have some misgivings about this effort.
SpaceX launched 60 of those satellites in May, and some of them have failed; a second launch in November sent up 60 more. The 2015 SpaceX financial estimates The Wall Street Journal got ahold of projected the Starlink business would dwarf the rocket launch business — and now, as a result of the slowed pace of launches, Starlink seems like a make-or-break business for SpaceX. (Again, this is all guesswork; it’s sort of hard to figure out what’s going on financially with a privately traded company.) In any event, in October, Musk tweeted that he was going to send a tweet using the Starlink system. “Whoa, it worked!!” he wrote.
If Starlink is successful, then the 2020s will truly be a new era for SpaceX: it will be a consumer business.
Tesla’s initial public offering was in June 2010; the company raised $226.1 million during the first IPO of an American carmaker since Ford went public in 1956. Tesla badly needed the cash. The company had teetered on the edge of bankruptcy during the 2008 financial crisis. It had only one car, the Roadster, and it had never made a profit. This would all change over the course of a decade, and thanks to the ready availability of information on publicly traded companies, Tesla’s travails would prove easier to track than SpaceX’s.
For better and sometimes worse, this decade was the decade of the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Every Tesla car built this decade came from Fremont. Without that plant, it seems unlikely Tesla would have been able to begin its deliveries of the Model S (in November 2012), the Model X (September 2015), or the Model 3 (July 2017).
Then there was the matter of the Model 3. At its unveiling in March 2016, Musk said the Model 3 would be his affordable, mass-market electric car: the base model would cost $35,000. A week after Tesla started taking orders, the company said 350,000 people had reserved the cars.
That raised some manufacturing questions since the Fremont factory had delivered fewer than 51,000 cars total in 2015. Part of Musk’s initial plans for making the Model 3 involved turning the factory into an “alien dreadnaught,” a machine to build cars, he said in a 2016 earnings call. This did not turn out as planned. In 2018, Musk admitted that Tesla relied too much on robots to build the Model 3s, which is why there were manufacturing delays leading up to the car’s introduction in July 2017.
But even after the Model 3 began production, there were bottlenecks. The Fremont factory was bursting at the seams. The catch-all for this, of course, was “production hell.” So Musk… built a tent in 2018. And that tent became another assembly line.
The Fremont plant was also where workers complained about their conditions. According to reporting from The Guardian, ambulances had been called more than 100 times to the Fremont factory between 2014 and 2017 for fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing, and chest pains. “Hundreds more were called for injuries and other medical issues,” the report said. Another report from 2017 showed that Tesla workers were injured at a rate of double the injury average. Workers in the tent in 2019 said they were pressured to take shortcuts to hit production goals.
Worker unrest meant the possibility of a union arose; unions are common in car manufacturing, after all. A Tesla employee, Jose Moran, wrote a 2017 Medium post complaining at length about working conditions and saying that’s why he thought Tesla should unionize. At first, Musk claimed Moran was an employee of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), rather than Tesla. By 2018, the National Labor Relations Board was involved, reviewing Musk’s tweets (“Why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” he tweeted in May 2018), among other evidence. In September 2019, Tesla and Musk were found to have violated labor law.
Even as Fremont was the primary Tesla site, Musk’s manufacturing ambitions led to several new factories. The unfinished Gigafactory 1 opened in Nevada in July 2016; it was 14 percent complete at the time. The August 2016 acquisition of SolarCity would give Tesla what would later be known as Gigafactory 2. In January 2019, Tesla broke ground for the Shanghai Gigafactory; by October, Tesla claimed it was ready for production. A fourth Gigafactory is planned for Berlin.
The Gigafactories have also given rise to some controversy. In 2018, Business Insider reported that batteries at the Gigafactory were getting scrapped (or reworked) at a rate of 40 percent. The man who was blamed for the leak was an assembly line worker named Martin Tripp, and Musk characterized him as engaging in “extensive and damaging sabotage” in an email to staff, Bloomberg reported. Litigation between Tripp and Tesla is ongoing. A former security manager named Sean Gouthro alleges in a whistleblower report with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Tesla behaved unethically in its search for the leaker. Tesla maintains it terminated Gouthro for poor performance.
Then there’s Gigafactory 2. New York (the state, not the city) spent $958.6 million on the factory and wrote that down to about $75 million — though that figure doesn’t capture the plant’s economic value to the surrounding area, The Buffalo News reported. Some workers there have said they found the work environment hostile.
Of course, the 2016 SolarCity acquisition was more than just a factory; it was a new line of business and possibly a conflict of interest. (The shareholder lawsuits are still out there, and they allege SolarCity was going broke before the acquisition, and “conflicted fiduciaries” negotiated an inflated price on SolarCity shares. Tesla and Musk have denied these claims.) SolarCity’s founders are Lyndon and Peter Rive, Musk’s cousins. Musk was chairman of both companies when Tesla bought SolarCity; he was also SolarCity’s largest shareholder.
At the time, SolarCity was the biggest player in residential energy. Since then, it’s been passed by Sunrun and Vivint Solar, Marketwatch reported in June. Maybe that was because most of Tesla’s resources were being sucked up by Model 3 production, as Musk said in a deposition. (Tesla has said that the number of batteries supplied by Panasonic is a “fundamental constraint.”) Maybe people got tired of waiting for the Solar Roof, a product announced by Musk at the same time as the acquisition — which still hasn’t seriously surfaced as a consumer product three years later. It is perhaps also worth mentioning the hair-raising litigation from Walmart — now dropped — about a series of solar panel fires.
Energy storage and solar panels may be a Tesla business we see grow over the course of the next decade or so. After building the largest battery in the world — in Australia — to help buttress the electric grid, Tesla may soon be building an even bigger one in California. The company has also introduced a new industrial storage pack. In California, several energy companies have been cutting power to avoid wildfires, and those blackouts are unlikely to stop anytime soon. That may provide an opportunity for Tesla’s consumer energy business as well.
At times, the pressure from Tesla appeared to be getting the better of Musk. The most significant stress period occurred in August 2018. On August 7th, Musk tweeted: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” By August 24th, Musk had abandoned this plan. Then, a month later, the SEC sued him over the “funding secured” tweet: “In truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, key deal terms, including price, with any potential funding source,” prosecutors wrote in the complaint. Two days later, the suit was settled: Musk would step down as chairman of Tesla, and both he and Tesla would pay $20 million fines. Also, there was a provision about tweeting, which got relitigated this year because Musk will never log off.
In any event, Tesla carved out its first back-to-back quarterly profits in the last two quarters of 2018. In the second quarter of 2019, Tesla made and delivered the most cars in its history, though the company still posted a loss for the quarter. It made its first profit in 2019 during its third quarter. One consistent theme throughout Tesla’s existence has been skeptics who’ve said the business doesn’t seem sustainable. Despite the naysaying and some close calls, Tesla is still in the ring. With the Model Y (a compact SUV) and Cybertruck coming in the next decade, Tesla has the opportunity to prove naysayers wrong — or undergo another production hell. Strap yourself in because, whatever happens, it’s likely to be a fascinating ride.
Musk launched two new ventures this decade: Neuralink, a company for brain-machine interfaces, and the Boring Company, a tunnel-boring venture. The two companies appear to have much less day-to-day attention from Musk. At his Twitter defamation trial in December 2019, Musk described Tesla and SpaceX as occupying 95 percent of his time. Still, both ventures are worth mentioning at least in part because they seem to expand Musk’s science fiction-influenced worldview.
Neuralink was founded in 2016, about a decade after the first clinical report of a person using a brain-machine interface to move a cursor on a screen. Neuralink was publicly unveiled in 2017, and Musk gave more details on the company’s ambitions: to give people who are disabled a way to command computers as a compensatory aid, allow for telepathic communication, and graft human thought onto AI systems.
Well, Musk usually dreams big.
In 2019, we got some more details on the design of the Neuralink technology: flexible threads to be embedded in the brain. Also, a monkey has used the technology to “control a computer with its brain,” Musk announced, to the surprise of his team. The company is still in early stages, and biotechnology usually takes more than a decade from initial research to sale on the market, with lots of studies in between to help characterize the technology.
The Boring Company is moving faster, probably because it doesn’t require brain surgery. In January 2017, Musk tweeted about Los Angeles traffic “driving me nuts.” He said he had a new venture in mind: the Boring Company.
In 2019, Chicago got a new mayor, and, suddenly, the Boring Company project was placed on the back burner. But Las Vegas, which is no stranger to quixotic transit projects, stepped into the breach: the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority entered into a $48.6 million contract with the Boring Company to build a “people mover.” That project broke ground in November 2019, and it’s expected to be completed by CES
Automakers commonly run prototype vehicles on public roads for testing purposes before they’re ready for production. In fact, there’s a whole cottage industry of people who go to great lengths to photograph these vehicles to get a sense of what automakers have in store with their newest models, and automakers typically respond by using all sorts of camouflage and fake bodywork to throw spectators off the scent.
There’s no hiding the Cybertruck, though, with its massive angular steel frame, giant wheels, and raised suspension. And Musk wasn’t trying to be covert while driving it this weekend. Instead, he took the truck to dinner at celebrity hot spot Nobu, accompanied by Grimes and a few other passengers. (He even gave actor Edward Norton a look at the truck on the way out of the famous sushi restaurant.)
The Cybertruck prototype is missing a number of features it will eventually need to become street legal when it ships around the end of 2021, like a driver’s side mirror, windshield wipers, and more dedicated headlights and brake lights. But just like other automakers do with their prototypes, Tesla has outfitted the Cybertruck with a manufacturer license plate, which gives companies some wiggle room to test vehicles on public roads even if they don’t meet the US federal motor vehicle safety standards.
It’s not exactly comforting that Musk was seen clipping a child-sized sign in his behemoth electric pickup truck during one of the prototype’s first appearances on public roads. Of course, much like the truck’s polarizing design, Musk’s decision to bring the prototype to a high-profile spot like Nobu is also probably going to inspire even more people to put down $100 deposits — regardless of how carelessly he drove the thing.
It’s rude to play with your food at the Thanksgiving dinner table, but exceptions can be made if you’re sculpting newly announced cyberpunk pickup trucks out of your tubers.
On Thanksgiving day, Dan Milano, a producer for NowThis News, shared a video of his brother Greg recreating a Tesla Cybertruck out of his mashed potatoes. Amazingly, the tiny car truly does resemble the truck’s polarizing angular style.
But Greg didn’t stop there. An entire Twitter thread showcased his sculpting journey as he scooped out the back to create the truck bed and created a ramp out the back end. He even punctured two holes into the “windows” — an ode to the Cybertruck reveal, when Tesla’s lead designer Franz von Holzhausen accidentally smashed the truck’s glass windows with a metal ball.
The life of the potato Cybertruck — or Tatertruck, as I have nicknamed it — didn’t last long. Its fate was to be doused in gravy by the end of the night. It was a truck after all, and trucks are meant to carry things, including hot meaty sauces.
Apparently this isn’t Greg’s first time creating art from starchy vegetable roots. Dan added a link to his brother’s Instagram account, which also includes an impressive mashed potato sculpture of New York City’s Guggenheim Museum. He also noted that Greg makes a “mashterpiece” every year. I think I speak for the entire internet community when I say that Greg should increase the frequency of his mashed creations; he’s clearly a prodigy.
A few days after Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s new Cybertruck, he posted a video of the truck taking part in a tug of war with a Ford F-150, which showed the electric Cybertruck easily overpowering the Ford pickup. But after accusations that the competition was unfair, Musk has agreed to a re-match, saying he’ll aim to record a new video next week.
A numberofblogs pointed out the apparent disparity in the match-up. The F-150 seems to be a rear-wheel drive model while the Cybertruck is all-wheel drive. The F-150 looks to be a lower-spec STX package with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, meaning it’s probably lighter than the Cybertruck. It even seems like Tesla’s vehicle is given a head start!
The video was controversial enough that scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson waded in to offer his opinion on Twitter, pointing out that electrical vehicles are “famously heavy” over the axles, which would give the Cybertruck greater traction in a tug-of-war.
And Ford itself also got involved, with Sundeep Madra, vice president of the automaker’s venture incubator Ford X, challenging Musk to an “apples to apples test.” Musk responded quickly: “Bring it on,” adding that he’ll “aim to do this next week.”
Will it happen though?A Ford spokesperson told Motor1 that Madra’s tweet was “tongue-in-cheek,” though that doesn’t answer the question of whether the challenge was serious. We’ve reached out to Ford and will update this story if we get a confirmation.
Really, though, Musk can’t lose in this sort of a competition. The market for pickups in the US is deeply loyal, with customers generally sticking to one of a handful of brands, including Ford’s F-series and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram trucks. If Tesla is going to make in-roads here it needs to be as visible as possible, so a little bit of chest-thumping can’t hurt.
Even if the Cybertruck lost in a re-match, Musk could say that Tesla will improve the vehicle before it starts rolling off assembly lines (scheduled for 2022). Better still, he could demand a tug-of-war against Ford’s own upcoming electric F-150, which is currently in the works. Now that would be “apples to apples.”
We’ll have to wait and see if the re-match happens, but whatever the outcome I’m sure Ford and Tesla fans will only want to see more.
The unveiling of Tesla’s Cybertruck last week was full of surprises, but none more shocking than the moment when lead designer Franz von Holzhausen smashed two of the vehicle’s “armor glass” windows onstage with a metal ball. It certainly wasn’t the result CEO Elon Musk was expecting, who could be heard muttering “oh my fucking god” under his breath before being forced to complete his presentation in front of the fractured panes.
But Musk says he knows what went wrong, and explained things on Twitter. Right before the metal ball test, von Holzhausen smacked the door with a sledgehammer on stage to prove its durability (and unlike the glass, it was fine), and Musk says this impact “cracked base of glass,” which is why the windows subsequently smashed when hit by the ball.
This seems plausible, especially as Musk also shared a slow motion video of von Holzhausen performing the same exact test before the event, with the ball bouncing harmlessly off the window. The combined impacts likely weakened the glass, setting the stage for the eventual smash. (Though why the back window broke as well isn’t clear: the passenger door didn’t get whomped by the sledgehammer.)
Yup. Sledgehammer impact on door cracked base of glass, which is why steel ball didn’t bounce off. Should have done steel ball on window, *then* sledgehammer the door. Next time …
At any rate, the smashed glass was just one moment in an event which gave viewers plenty to talk about without the on-stage mishaps. The divisive design and impressive specs of the Cybertruck have caught the world’s attention, and since the unveiling Musk has been drip-feeding bits of information on Twitter to keep people engaged.
Solar panels on the roof that charge the car as it drives? We’re doing it, says Musk. A new matte black finish? “Sure,” he says. The Tesla CEO even suggested a second, “smaller” version of the Cybertruck would make sense in the “long term.”
We’ll have to wait and see how many of these promises become a reality (remember: Musk has been predicting Teslas will have “full self driving” capability for years) but there’s certainly a lot of interest in the Cybertruck. As of Monday morning, Musk said the company had received more than 200,000 preorders for the vehicle, “with no advertising & no paid endorsement.” All it took was a few smashed windows instead.
Two days after its big (and slightly botched) unveiling, the Cybertruck is already racking up a lot of interest. Tesla had received 146,000 deposits for the electric pickup truck as of Saturday, later increasing to 200,000, Elon Musk tweeted on Sunday. That’s a cool $20 million for Tesla’s bank account in just 48 hours. (Musk is calling these deposits pre-orders, though customers are not required to put down more than a trivial amount for the car, and are under no commitment to actually order it.)
Tesla is offering three versions of the truck: single motor rear-wheel drive with 250 miles of range for $39,900; dual motor all-wheel drive with 300 miles of range for $49,900; and tri motor all-wheel drive with 500 miles of range for $69,900. Musk said that 42 percent of reservations are dual motor, 41 percent tri motor, and 17 percent single motor.
146k Cybertruck orders so far, with 42% choosing dual, 41% tri & 17% single motor
“With no advertising & no paid endorsement,” Musk said in a follow up tweet.
Customers making a reservation for the Cybertruck will have to wait a while before the boxy pickup pulls into their driveways, though. Production on the single and dual-motor versions won’t begin until late 2021, while the tri-motor truck won’t roll off the assembly line until late 2022.
Tesla uses reservations for its forthcoming vehicles to generate excitement and provide a short-term revenue infusion, which helps provide a cushion for the cash-strapped automaker. And Musk likes to tout “preorder” numbers as a way to juice even more sales. For example, the company received 276,000 reservations for the Model 3 a few days after its unveiling in 2016; two days later that number grew to 325,000.
To be sure, Tesla doesn’t always release its reservation numbers. The company has yet to reveal how many customers have put down deposits for the Model Y, its electric crossover that it revealed last March.
The Cybertruck is no Model 3 or Model Y, but the respectable number of reservations indicates that Tesla still has its fair share of early adopters. That said, the Blade Runner-inspired design of the truck has been wildly polarizing, with social media spilling over with jokes at the truck’s expense.
Update November 25th, 2:41AM ET: Story updated with revised reservation numbers.
Update November 27th, 1:67AM ET: This story has been updated to refer to Cybertruck “preorders” as reservations. Since customers are only depositing a tiny amount of money relative to the actual cost of the vehicle, and because there is no real commitment to buy it, we’ve decided not to call these preorders.
About an hour or so after Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed an absurd, futuristic, brutalist electric pickup called Cybertruck to the world, I pulled myself up into its passenger seat. A Tesla employee then took me and three others for a short joy ride down a temporarily closed-off road that lines one side of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
We were riding in the midlevel, dual-motor version of the truck, which is supposed to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds and will eventually start at $49,900. But while the prototype truck was quick, the sensation of speed was dulled by its size and (undisclosed) weight. It didn’t really provide that thrilling jolt forward that Teslas are known for.
Instead, the most stunning thing about my ride in the Cybertruck was how big and roomy it was. Say what you will about the outside of the Cybertruck, but I (and the rear-seat passengers) had more space to spread out than previously seemed possible in a vehicle of this size, almost as if Tesla had pulled off some sort of magic trick.
And that’s sort of the whole deal with the Cybertruck, as far as I could tell by the end of the night. Yeah, it looks outrageous, with a design that’s more at home on the surface of Mars than in a Walmart parking lot. But if you’re willing to accept that, the truck could be more than meets the eye when it goes into production in late 2021.
For instance, the single-motor base model of the Cybertruck will allegedly get 250 miles or more on a full battery, with a 3,500-pound payload limit and 7,500-pound towing capacity — all for basically the same price as the entry-level Model 3 and Model Y.
While the price goes up from there, so do the specs, all the way to a version with a proposed 500-plus mile range and 14,000-pound towing capacity, which is powered by the same three-motor “Plaid powertrain” the company has been testing at Laguna Seca and the Nürburgring. Musk promised the Cybertruck will crush any off-road scenario, too, thanks to adaptive air suspension and up to 16 inches of ground clearance. Tesla also showed off photos of the truck on its website with an accompanying trailer as well as camping gear, hinting at possible accessories (though, let’s see the production trucks first). There are even some table stakes features for a modern truck, like 110V and 220V outlets, and lockable storage, and some more unique touches, like an onboard air compressor.
All of this is hiding behind a stainless steel body, or “exoskeleton” as Musk called it, the design of which is what helped open up so much room in the cabin in the first place. (Musk said Tesla is using the same cold-rolled steel alloy in the Cybertruck body as SpaceX used for its Mars rocket prototype — another one of his projects that was derided for its looks, even though that vehicle eventually pulled off a successful test flight.)
Being a prototype, the inside of the truck didn’t exactly seem finished. While the dashboard almost looks like marble in Tesla’s official photos, it felt more like a slab of foam when I touched it. (The body was definitely steel, though, which was quite literally cold to the touch.) There were no side mirrors, and the rear-view mirror was a display connected to a camera embedded in the back of the truck.
And though the Cybertruck was running what Tesla said is the next-generation version of its in-car software on a landscape-oriented, 17-inch touchscreen, the Tesla employee in the driver’s seat only tapped through a few settings during the ride. Now that the truck’s broken cover, that software is something I want to see more of in the coming months.
Tesla has built its entire existence on convincing people to buy something they didn’t think they wanted. Electric cars were derided as wimpy golf carts before the company came along. From that perspective, selling the Cybertruck may not be as radical a challenge for the company as it seems. Besides, to put it lightly, Elon Musk loves to swim upstream.
From my brief time in the truck, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to believe the polarizing design could fade to the back of people’s minds once they’re inside. The truck’s flat nose did sort of peek out behind the dashboard in front of me, but the spaciousness and the Model 3-style screen kept clawing my attention back inside. If anything, the Cybertruck feels so commanding from the front seats that drivers in the US — who’ve put sedans on deathwatch because they’re so taken with the ride height of SUVs and trucks— seem in some ways like the perfect customers. (With that in mind, it’s time to see some crash tests and hear about things like crumple zones, Tesla.)
“Good design is ridiculed a lot at first, and then over time it becomes normal,” Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics consulting at JD Power, said after the event. “It’s tough to say whether this is going to fit that mold, though.”
Musk spent months telling everyone that Tesla’s first electric pickup truck would look like something out of Blade Runner. And yet, for a brief moment after the truck appeared onstage, the entire room — one full of Tesla customers and fans from all around the world — fell practically silent in disbelief. As he rattled off the truck’s specs and features, I heard a few low exclamations of “what the fuck?” before the hooting and hollering picked back up. It was as if the people in the room were expecting a different kind of magic trick, one where Musk would coyly laugh before revealing the true Tesla pickup truck, which would still eat Ford F-150s for breakfast but look a little less alien. (That feeling only seemed to multiply when Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen broke the truck’s windows while trying to demonstrate their durability.)
Truth be told, anyone who attended the Cybertruck unveiling should have seen the design coming from the moment they arrived because the company leaned so hard into the Blade Runner vibe for the event. Musk told Tesla fans and customers to dress in cyberpunk attire, and they did, with many sporting trench coats, colorful LED glasses, homemade outfits, and light-up sneakers. Tesla set up props from the movie (on loan from the Petersen Automotive Museum) in the parking lot. The company even constructed a noodle bar for anyone who got hungry.
But while Tesla’s brash CEO is well-known for missing deadlines and often struggles to live up to his own lofty promises, the Cybertruck has made one thing clear: sometimes, it’s worth taking him at his word.