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Cybertruck aside, Tesla lineup ‘staleness’ worries analysts

Few would deny that Tesla’s Cybertruck catches the eye, though whether it does so in a good way is up for debate. But aside from the striking new vehicle—which Tesla CEO Elon Musk handed over to early customers in person on Thursday at the company’s Austin headquarters—the EV maker has not done much in recent years by way of new models or refreshes. That has some analysts worried about the impact a relatively stale lineup could have on the company’s growth, especially with little in the pipeline. 

“Tesla has a product problem,” Bernstein analysts warned, pointing to “an older line-up that does not address enough of the market, and has no new mass market offerings until likely late 2025.”

Some analysts, on the other hand, believe the Cybertruck can make older Tesla models seem fresher than their age by association.

“There’s a little bit of staleness that’s come about with the Model 3 and Model Y,” Tom Narayan of RBC Capital Markets told CNBC on Thursday. “Now we have excitement” with the Cybertruck, he added, with a “halo effect” on older Tesla vehicles.  

Teslas can be updated via software, of course, but whether that’s enough to satisfy an itch for something new is debatable. Sam Fiorani, an automotive analyst for AutoForecast Solutions, told Business Insider earlier this year that Tesla may need greater variety in models as it becomes more of a mass-market vehicle maker.

“When you move to higher-volume vehicles, you have to start keeping up with the Joneses,” he said. “When you sell some 300,000 of the same vehicle every year, and then they’re all parked together in a grocery-store parking lot, those customers suddenly want something to set them apart from their neighbors.”

Tesla has delivered about 494,000 vehicles in the U.S. this year as of the third quarter, a jump of about 26% from this period last year, but its share of the EV market has fallen from 62% at the start of the year to just half today, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, relatively few Cybertrucks are likely to be sold in the near term. While Musk has said Tesla will likely be producing 250,000 Cybertrucks by 2025, Bernstein estimates just 75,000 deliveries for next year, cautioning that even that “may be ambitious.” 

Musk himself has warned about production difficulties with the Cybertruck, partly stemming from its ultra-hard stainless steel exterior, which required some new machinery.

“I do want to emphasize that there will be enormous challenges in reaching volume production with the Cybertruck, and then making the Cybertruck cash-flow positive,” Musk told investors in October. He added in jest, “We dug our own grave with the Cybertruck.” 

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian was among the first customers to pick up a Cybertruck on Thursday. He said in a livestream that driving it felt “super futuristic.” 

But it’s increasingly unlikely that Tesla customers will feel that way about the EV maker’s older vehicles. 

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