Tesla Cybertruck

Controversy Down Under Raises More Questions About Cybertruck’s Future

Tesla continues to be quiet about the fate of the Cybertruck, but its actions in Australia might give us a clue.

It’s one of the most controversial automotive products in decades — and also one of the most delayed. That’s led many observers to question whether Tesla will ever get its Cybertruck into production.

Now, adding more fuel to the debate, there have been reports that the upstart EV manufacturer has canceled plans to bring the electric pickup to Australia, despite the thousands of advance reservations placed by motorists there. But at least one source is now challenging that report, with fan site Teslarati.com insisting the “Cybertruck has NOT been canceled in Australia.”

What’s clear is that Tesla will give refunds, if requested, to the thousands of motorists down under who have placed advance reservations for the electric pickup, backed by a $150 Australian deposit, which has always been an option. There have been contradictory reports about whether Tesla has reached out to reservation holders offering refunds.

Tesla Cybertruck
Screenshot of Australian Tesla Cybertruck landing page on July 25, 2022; (capture/Bryon Dorr)

The automaker has also changed — but not deleted — the Cybertruck page on its Australian site. But where customers could, until recently, place additional reservations, the page no longer permits that, instead offering a link to “Get Updates.”

The exact reasoning hasn’t been revealed — and Tesla normally declines to respond to requests from the media. But whether Tesla actually is canceling Australian sales or simply limiting new reservations, new concerns are being raised about plans for the Cybertruck, which has been delayed repeatedly since its unveiling nearly 3 years ago.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has indicated the electric pickup now won’t be put into production until sometime next year, at the earliest. Analysts including Sam Fiorani, of AutoForecast Solution, say potential buyers could have to wait until 2024.

Plenty of Competition

In the meantime, a flood of competitive offerings is coming to market.

General Motors launched its GMC Hummer EV late last year, about the same time Rivian began producing its R1T. Ford started sending its new F-150 Lightning down a new assembly line in Dearborn, Mich., in April — and it’s faced such strong demand that it is upping production capacity from an initial 25,000 to 150,000 annually. Ford also is developing a smaller EV pickup.

Next year will see the debut of the Chevrolet Silverado EV, with GM also prepping an all-electric version of the GMC Sierra. Stellantis’ RAM truck brand is set to launch a full-size EV pickup in 2024. And Toyota, Kia, and others are set to follow.

At least 11 — and possibly more — electric pickups are now in the works.

Tesla, however, has claimed to have a massive backlog of reservations for Cybertruck, a reported 1.2 million. U.S. customers make up the vast majority of those, about 76%, according to CarBuzz, which used crowdsourcing data for its calculations. Canada was second in line, with more than 10% of the reservations, and Australia third, at just over 3%.

Leaked Tesla Cybertruck Image
Leaked Tesla Cybertruck image; (photo/Cybertruck Owners Club)

Engineering Challenges

But Tesla quietly removed the Cybertruck from its Australian website earlier this year. Buyers there now have been advised they can apply for a refund, as the automaker is no longer planning to bring the truck there.

Initial reports from Drive.com.au indicated Tesla had removed the Cybertruck page from its Australian website. In fact, it has revised the page, no longer allowing visitors to place an order.

What’s unclear is why the switch in language. CEO Elon Musk recently suggested Tesla might stop taking new orders for vehicles for which it has a long backlog of reservations. And, were all the reported 1.2 million reservations now in place to be translated into actual purchases, there is no question that it could take between 2 and 4 years to fulfill them all. But it also leaves open the question of whether Cybertruck’s fate in Australia is less than certain.

GearJunkie has reached out to the automaker, but so far has received no response.

But analyst Fiorani said the most likely explanation is that Tesla “is prioritizing development of left-hand-drive, rather than the right-hand-drive” needed for Australia and other former British colonies. “It would require a lot of engineering work for a small number of vehicles,” he added. 

Among the questions he and other observers would like answered is whether Tesla plans to cancel and refund reservations in other markets. And, if so, whether that would include some countries using left-hand-drive.

Could Cybertruck Be Scrapped Entirely?

For his part, Fiorani still believes Tesla will eventually bring the electric pickup to market — though some others are beginning to question that.

Meanwhile, Musk has sent mixed signals over the last 2 years, alternately boasting about Cybertruck’s potential and then raising concerns about whether it might fail. In July 2021, for example, he took to Twitter to say there was “always some chance” the truck could be a “flop.”

Fiorani said that he’s not surprised that Tesla has delayed the truck’s launch, pointing to the challenges the automaker faces as it ramps up three new plants — one opened in China barely a year ago, and newer ones in Berlin and Austin, Texas.

But other analysts find it curious that Tesla has yet to confirm where it will build the electric pickup considering the time it would take to tool up a plant for the project.

Paul Eisenstein
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Paul A. Eisenstein is an award-winning publisher, photographer, editor, and one of the world’s most widely published automotive journalists. His work appears in a wide range of print, broadcast, and electronic outlets, including AutoWise, GearJunkie, NBC News, Forbes Wheels, and his own automotive website, TheDetroitBureau.com. He’s a North American Car and Truck of the Year juror, and board member and past president of the Automotive Press Association. J.D. Power also named him a “Pioneer of the Internet."