Cybertruck superfans waited years for the launch. Now Elon Musk has to deliver.

Tesla’s Cybertruck has a high bar as it enters a crowded market.

Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

The stakes are high for Tesla’s Cybertruck launch.The truck is “not a guaranteed slam dunk.”A slowdown in EV growth could create a headache for the Cybertruck launch.

The long-awaited Tesla Cybertruck is finally on its way, and the stakes are high for CEO Elon Musk.

The Cybertruck launch is set to cap off a banner year for Tesla. Musk and his EV company have consistently met or exceeded the market’s expectations, and gambles like steep price cuts have appeared to pay off.

Musk is attempting to steer Tesla to nearly 2 million units of production this year – a far cry from the days of “production hell” that nearly took down the company in 2017. A successful Cybertruck launch will be key to meeting that goal, and graduating Tesla from a scrappy startup to an automotive powerhouse.

Buzz around the Cybertruck is already largely positive – aside from some nitpicking online – with analysts expecting “Tesla’s take on the truck” to disrupt the stalwart segment. But all of that depends on a smooth launch for Tesla’s largest and most complex vehicle yet.

“It’s encouraging that Cybertruck is finally in production after years of delays on top of Tesla’s aging product lineup, but this news alone isn’t a guaranteed slam dunk,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds, said following the company’s second-quarter earnings. “The polarizing pickup will be a good test for the company’s fortitude and ability to clinch market share.”

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The pickup truck market is a different ballgame

The US pickup truck market is one of the most lucrative in the world, presenting a huge opportunity for Musk and Tesla. But it also presents some new challenges for the bombastic CEO, whose style may not mesh well with the pickup truck ecosystem.

Fierce loyalty among truck buyers makes the segment difficult for anyone to break into, and Musk is for the first time arriving late to the party, after Rivian’s R1T, Ford’s F-150 Lightning, and GM’s Hummer EV.

It’s also a tough time to release any new vehicles, particularly EVs. Cybertruck will face a more unpredictable new vehicle market with more customers tightening purse strings and gravitating to more practical purchases.

All the while, a looming plateau in EV growth could spell trouble for Tesla and its competitors. Where Tesla is concerned, that slowdown – driven largely by a dwindling population of early adopters in the market – is especially dangerous.

“Once you get to a million or a million-and-a-half buyers, now you’re running out of those fans who think you can do no wrong,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. “You need to make a real car, and you need to compete against everyone making a real car as well.”

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