Bottom line: Tesla's Cybertruck is supposed to start production by year's end. However, it might get another delay, as Musk criticized the latest production demo model for its panel gapping. Ideally, he wants those panels to fit together like "Legos."
I know it's only been about four years, but it feels like decades have passed since Elon Musk promised to bring his Cybertruck to market. It is getting closer, but the latest production candidate left Musk less than impressed. He chastised employees regarding its lack of precision, saying that even Legos and soda cans are machined better than the truck's panels.
"All parts for this vehicle, whether internal or from suppliers, need to be designed and built to sub 10 micron accuracy," Musk said to employees in an internal email obtained by the Cybertruck Owners Club. "That means all part dimensions need to be to the third decimal place in millimeters and tolerances need to be specified in single digit microns. If Lego and soda cans, which are very low cost, can do this, so can we."
Just drove the production candidate Cybertruck at Tesla Giga Texas! pic.twitter.com/S0kCyGUBFD– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 23, 2023
The email comes after Musk tweeted images of himself driving the latest version of the long-awaited vehicle. Even without zooming, the inconsistencies in panel gaps are glaringly obvious. For instance, note the areas near the headlight and driver-side windshield in the tweet below.
Bob Lutz said inconsistent panel gaps are a big deal, and he should know. Lutz has spent most of his professional life in the automotive industry, including running the top three US car manufacturers, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors. He was also partially responsible for ushering in the BMW 3 series back in the day.
"Customers may not visit showrooms with gap gauges, but they do unconsciously register the harmony and 'one-ness' of a car with gaps so narrow that it looks like a seamless shape," Lutz wrote in an op-ed for Road & Track. "It's a visual manifestation of precision, care, and thus, quality."
Indeed. While a car does not need to be utterly seamless, there does have to be a consistency between panels that is both uniform and narrow enough to give the appearance it's well-built. Customers will subconsciously notice tiny flaws like this and pass on the purchase without even knowing why.
It is even more crucial for the Cybertruck thanks to its janky unveiling and the many setbacks and delays it has faced. You may recall Musk bragging about the truck's "unbreakable" Tesla Armor Glass during the vehicle's 2019 unveiling, only to have his design lead come on stage and embarrassingly shatter two windows. Musk later blamed himself for weakening the glass base with a few sledgehammer strikes to the door.
If Cybertruck engineers are to meet Mr. Musk's precision standards, they had better get busy. The truck is scheduled to start mass production by the end of the year.