Tesla appears to be once again delaying production of its Cybertruck — a vehicle that is expected to be built in its soon-to-open Austin-area manufacturing facility.
Reuters news service reports that production of the vehicle will now start in the first quarter of 2023. The news service cited an unnamed source familiar with the matter.
While Tesla is by far the largest electric vehicle maker in the U.S., electric trucks are expected to be an important piece of accelerating electric vehicle adoption in coming years. Reuters's report said the delay in Cybertruck production is because the company is changing the vehicle's features and functions as competition in the electric pickup market grows.
The reported delay comes as Tesla is nearing the start of production at its $1.1 billion Austin-area manufacturing facility. The Cybertruck is expected to be produced at the southeastern Travis County facility, along with Semi, Model 3 compact sedan and Model Y SUV.
Tesla announced in October it was moving its corporate headquarters to Austin, but has yet to make any announcements about the start of production in Central Texas. The facility is expected to play a key role for Tesla, as it will boost capacity for production as the company continues to see demand for its vehicles outpace supply.
While Telsa has yet to confirm the Cybertruck delay, it would be far from the first time Tesla pushed back the start of the vehicle since it was first announced in 2019. At the time, Tesla said it would be rolling off production lines in late 2021. In August 2021, the company pushed the expected production date to 2022. Now the company's website gives no production date.
Originally, Tesla's order site read: "You will be able to complete your configuration as production nears in 2022," but last week Edmunds reported that the order page now reads: "You will be able to complete your configuration as production nears," a change made in late December.
Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, predicted that the Cybertruck will still play an important role for both Tesla and Austin in the next few years. For now, he expects Tesla, and especially its Austin facility, will focus on the Model Y. The small SUV is expected to be Tesla's best-selling vehicle this year, and demand is already outstripping supply by about 35%, Ives said.
"Cybertruck over the coming years is a major growth lever to the Tesla story and it's going to be the hearts and lungs of Austin for the next three to four years," Ives said. "In the medium term, Cybertruck will be front and center in Austin, but for right now the priority is getting model Y cars produced and delivered."
Construction at Tesla's Austin-area manufacturing facility has progressed rapidly since it was first announced in July 2020. Company executives previously said production could start before the end of 2021. While that didn't happen, Ives has predicted Tesla's Austin facility could start producing vehicles as early as this week, with vehicle delivery by early February and full capacity around the fourth quarter of 2022 or early 2023.
"The priority for Austin in the first six months is Model Y production. That's the lynchpin to the first year of the Austin facility in our opinion," Ives said. "(Wall Street analysts) always expected Cybertruck would be delayed into 2023 so that's not a surprise."
EV competition heats up
The reported Cybertruck delay comes as other automakers are increasingly entering the electric pickup market. Ford announced this month that it would double production of its F-150 Lightning, which will start shipping in the first half of 2022. GM said it would roll out an electric Chevy Silverado in 2023, and has previously announced electric Hummers and other EVs. Electric vehicle maker Rivian also has started shipping its first R1T vehicles to customers after facing its own delays.
Ives said Tesla will still be in line with the launch of these vehicles, especially with most of the electric pickup market ramping up in 2023.
"It's going to be an $800 billion market that's just starting, from an EV perspective, in 2023. We believe Tesla will have a significant market share in pickups," he said. "You're going to have Ford, Rivian and GM, but Tesla is going to play a big role, we believe, when it comes to driving overall EV adoption for pickups."
Battling chip shortage
The auto industry as a whole continues to grapple with chip shortages and other supply constraints. While Tesla has been able to navigate it better than some companies and posted record production numbers last year, the automaker has pushed back estimated delivery times on many of its vehicles.
"Given the chip shortage and supply issues that Telsa is facing right now, investors and customers want to see Tesla bet on Model Y as the first main production artery coming at Austin," Ives said. "Tesla's story over the next 12 to 18 months from a growth perspective is Model Y and continued success of Model 3."
Ives said the chip shortage and supply issues likely pushed back the production date for the Cybertruck.
In November, Musk tweeted that 2021 had been a "supply chain nightmare," when asked about the Cybertruck. The company is scheduled to report its 2021 fourth quarter and full year earnings on Jan. 26, and Musk is expected to give an update on the company's products roadmap.
Last week, Tesla reported a preview of its production and delivery numbers and said that it set a company record for total deliveries in the fourth quarter with 308,600. For all of 2021, the company delivered 936,172 vehicles, an 87% jump from the 499,647 it delivered the year before.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Report: Tesla delays Cybertruck, which is expected to be built in Austin