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Tesla's Cybertruck: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Billy Duberstein - Nov 28, 2019 at 11:34AM

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All we know about the controversial vehicle so far.

There aren't many companies as divisive as Tesla ( TSLA -6.42% ), and there aren't many Tesla products as divisive as the newly unveiled cybertruck. The audacious design, which CEO Elon Musk admits was inspired by the sci-fi film Blade Runner and James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, looks more like a vehicle made for the invasion of some alien planet, not to haul equipment around suburban America.

While many on social media slammed the bold design and taunted the company over its botched unveiling (see below), many are still enthusiastic about the truck's out-of-the-box look and impressive specs. Here's the good, bad, and the ugly regarding all things cybertruck.

Profile view of the Tesla cybertruck, with the stylized title of cybertruck written out above it.

Image source: Tesla.

Starting with the ugly

At first, Tesla's shares were down some 6% on the day following the cybertruck reveal, as many major publications ridiculed both the design and unveiling. A Forbes editorial called it "Ugly as Sin." Even CNN noted that The cybertruck had become "the butt of every internet joke." 

It didn't help that during the unveiling, Musk's lead designer, Franz von Holzhausen, attempted to demonstrate the toughness of the cybertruck's windows, only to subsequently smash them. Musk later blamed the prior "door test" for the snafu, where von Holzhausen took a sledgehammer to the driver's side door, which the door defended quite well. Musk later tweeted that the door test had actually cracked the driver's side window frame prior to the window test with the steel ball.

Of course, that doesn't explain why the back window then smashed as well.

The spec goodness

If one can get past the loud design and unveiling slipup, there were actually some very impressive specs on the new vehicle.

Spec

Single-Motor

Dual-Motor

Tri-Motor

Starting price

$39,900

$49,900

$69,900

0-60 MPH

<6.5 seconds

<4.5 seconds

<2.9 seconds

Range

250+ miles

300+ miles

500+ miles

Storage

100 CU feet

100 CU feet

100 CU feet

Towing capacity

7,500+ lbs.

10,000+ lbs.

14,000+ lbs.

Data source: Tesla.com/cybertruck.

As is the case with Tesla's other models, the company is offering discounted self-driving features for $7,000, with the price set to increase in the future once the feature is legally available via software upgrade.

The above specs compare favorably against the country's most popular pickup, the Ford ( F -3.67% ) F-150. The 2020 F-150 models go for between $28,495 to $52,740, lower than the cybertruck's $39,900-$69,900 range. But remember, Teslas also generate a lot of fuel savings -- and that's especially true for large trucks. In addition, Tesla has a history of lowering prices as batteries become cheaper and production more efficient.

The cybertruck also appears to outdo the F-150 on certain specs. The tri-motor cybertruck's 3,500 lbs. of payload capacity and max towing capacity of 14,000+ lbs. slightly outshines the F-150's 3,270 lbs. and 13,200 lbs., respectively. 

On a final positive note, despite the naysaying from social media, Musk tweeted that by the end of the weekend following the presentation, Tesla had already received 200,000 preorders. If those numbers do turn into sales, it would be impressive, enough by themselves to garner sixth place in U.S. pickup truck sales, according to JD Power. That would be just ahead of the GMC Sierra at 158,284 units sold and just behind the Toyota Tacoma at 245,659 units sold in the U.S. in 2018.

The bad, or at least issues to work through

While the cybertruck has much going for it, investors need may to "kick the tires" a bit more beyond the initial presentation, so to speak, as there could be a few holes in management's story.

First, Tesla's promotional tug-o-war video displaying the cybertruck's superiority over the Ford F-150 may have been flawed, as it appears the cybertruck is not only heavier, but was facing off against a mid-range F-150 model with older tires and only rear-wheel drive activated, as opposed to all-wheel drive.

Sundeep Madra, VP of Ford X, Ford's next-gen technology incubator, subsequently challenged Musk to send a cybertruck over so that Ford can conduct an "apples-to-apples" test -- which Musk promptly accepted. The new test may still work out in Tesla's favor, but investors and customers shouldn't necessarily bank on the cybertruck's superiority until more tests are done, hopefully one day by an independent judge.

The 200,000 preorders may also be a bit misleading as any type of leading indicator. Preorders for the cybertruck are only $100 and fully refundable, so it isn't as if these sales are totally bankable. By comparison, the preorder for the Model 3 was $1,000, and for the upcoming Model Y, it's $2,500. So, it's not like putting a preorder down is a huge commitment for the cybertruck.  

Therefore, some of the hard numbers -- such as specs and preorders -- are still questionable at this point. Pickup drivers also tend to be more suburban and rural, and it's still unclear whether they will shed their loyalty for traditional models for the space-age design of the cybertruck.

Whether the cybertruck turns into a significant revenue driver for Tesla is still an open question, but one thing's for sure: It's sparking conversation, and there will be plenty of commentary from bulls and bears alike for this disruptive automaker over the next few years.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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