PARIS: The last time Tesla boss Elon Musk took the stage to promote the electric car company’s planned “cybertruck”, its window ended up being smashed.
It was a shattering debut for the vehicle, meant to stake Tesla’s claim to the lucrative US truck market. Four years later, as the company starts delivering the futuristic product to buyers, that problem has been fixed.
But questions linger over whether the truck’s unusual design will help or hurt its chances of success. Musk has said the truck - which is angular and made of rocket-like, bullet-proof steel materials - might be the company’s “best product ever”.
But speaking to Wall Street analysts last month he also said he wanted to “temper expectations”, warning there would be “enormous challenges” before the company was producing the vehicle in big numbers and turning a profit.
“It is going to require immense work,” he said. “It’s not a demand issue, but we have to make it, and we need to make it at a price that people can afford - insanely difficult things.” The “bells and whistles” of the truck, which starts at a higher-than-promised list price of roughly $61,000 (£48,320), have complicated manufacturing and added to cost, he added later.
“We dug our own grave with the cybertruck,” Musk said. Trucks are among the most popular vehicles sold in the US - with traditional sedans so out of favour that some carmakers have stopped making them for the country.
But Tesla’s offer is entering the market at a difficult moment - some two years behind schedule - as the highest interest rates in decades dampen buyers’ ability to make new purchases.
In recent months, rivals such as General Motors and Ford have said they will ramp up production of electric vehicles more slowly than initially planned, citing the weakness in the market. Musk has said the company has more than one million reservations for the cybertruck. But it is unclear how many will translate into sales.