Tesla CEO Elon Musk issued a warning Wednesday about the soon-to-be delivered Cybertruck that might sound familiar to those who closely followed the company’s Model 3 “production hell” era.
The gist? Scaling production of a vehicle like the Cybertruck is hard and it’s going to take awhile before it’s profitable. Musk estimated that it will take about 18 months until the Cybertruck is cash flow positive. At some point in 2025 — and once Tesla has navigated these production challenges — the company will be making “roughly” 250,000 Cybertrucks a year, Musk predicted.
Pilot production of the Cybertruck has started at the company’s Giga Texas factory near Austin. Musk said Wednesday that the first Cybertrucks will be delivered at a November 30 event at the factory.
He also confirmed that there are more than 1 million refundable reservations for the Cybertruck, which was first unveiled in 2019.
“I do want to emphasize that there will be enormous challenges in reaching volume production with the Cybertruck and then making the Cybertruck cashflow positive — this is simply normal,” Musk said during Wednesday’s third-quarter earnings call, later emphasizing that he believes this is potentially the company’s best product ever. “When you’ve got a product with a lot of new technology or any brand new vehicle program, especially one that is as different and advanced as the Cybertruck, you will have problems proportionate to how many new things you’re trying to solve at scale.”
He later added: “It is going to require immense work to reach volume production, and be cashflow positive, at a price that people can afford.”
The Cybertruck has already dinged Tesla’s earnings. The company reported Wednesday net income of $1.85 billion in the third quarter, a 44% drop from the same year-ago period due to shrinking margins caused by repeated price cuts of its EVs as well as increased operating expenses on its Cybertruck, AI and other R&D programs. Tesla’s operating expenses were $2.4 billion in the third quarter, a 43% bump from the same period last year.
That lag in Cybertruck profitability presents a challenge for Tesla.
The company continues to grow — aka spend more money — in terms of footprint, people and programs like Cybertruck. And while it’s still the EV sales leader in North America by a wide margin, the company’s strategy of reducing prices has steadily reduced its margins. Industry watchers have worried that Tesla and other automakers will have to continue to cut prices due to some indications of softening demand for EVs.
Meanwhile, there aren’t any other new Tesla models expected in the near term, which could further drag down profits.
And while its free cash flow dwindled to $848 million in the third quarter, Tesla is sitting on a $26 billion chunk of cash, cash equivalents and investments, leaving it plenty of wiggle room. Whether shareholders will remain patient is unclear.