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Musk says Tesla’s price cuts are boosting demand but Cybertruck won’t ramp up until 2024

Tesla’s deep price cuts earlier this month have boosted demand beyond the automaker’s ability to make its cars fast enough, but volume production of the highly anticipated Cybertruck pickup won’t come until 2024, CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday’s quarterly earnings call.

“The most common question we’ve been getting from investors is about demand,” Musk said. “I want to put that to concern to rest: thus far in January, we’ve seen the strongest orders year-to-date ever in our history.”

Tesla cut prices mid-January across its entire lineup by up to 20 percent in the U.S. Its most popular vehicle, the Model Y, received a price reduction of $13,000. This week, however, Tesla raised the Model Y price by $500 because demand was so high.

“We’re currently seeing orders at almost twice the rate of production,” Musk said. “We’ve actually raised the Model Y price a little bit in response to that.”

The Tesla price reductions have also had a secondary effect. By pushing the standard, two-row Model Y just below $55,000, the electric crossover is able to qualify for a $7,500 EV tax break as part of the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law last year.

The IRS has given guidance that the base two-row Model Y qualifies as a car with a $55,000 price cap for the incentive, while the three-row Model Y that costs $4,000 more qualifies as an SUV with an $80,000 price cap.

Tesla said in its fourth-quarter earnings released Wednesday that it’s forecasting global vehicle sales to rise to 1.8 million this year from about 1.3 million last year. But Musk said on the earnings call that Tesla should be capable of producing — and selling — about 2 million barring any major problems.

The controversial CEO, who bought Twitter late last year, said that production of the Cybertruck pickup will not significantly contribute to the automaker’s numbers this year. The original launch was promised for late 2021.

“We do expect production to start sometime this summer,” Musk said in response to a question about Tesla meeting its revised mid-2023 launch date. “But I always try and downplay the start of production because start of production is always very slow.”

Rather, Musk said, it’s better to focus on volume production, which will come next year. He added that the wildly styled pickup will be a special product with a new generation of hardware for semi-autonomous driving.

Because of delays, the Cybertuck will come to market after rivals such as the Rivian R1T from late 2021, the Ford F-150 Lightning from last year and the Chevrolet Silverado EV, coming in the spring.

“Tesla has made false promises about the Cybertruck before, but if the company has ever needed to ramp up a timeline for an anticipated product, it’s now,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “The Cybertruck almost seems like old news since the company has been talking about it for so long,” Caldwell said. Musk first presented the pickup in 2019.

Caldwell said Tesla will continue to rely on its Model 3 compact sedan, Model Y compact crossover and perhaps a future mainstream vehicle for the bulk of its production numbers, since the Cybertruck likely won’t be a mass-market offering.

Tesla also released its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results after the market close Wednesday.

Net profit for the quarter was $3.69 billion, or $1.07 per share, compared with $2.32 billion, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier.

Tesla shares rose 5.5 percent to $152.39 in after-hours trading.

The EV leader beat analysts’ expectations for revenue even as its margin per vehicle slipped. Analysts are watching gross margin at the automaker given this month’s price cuts.

The company said revenue was $24.32 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $24.16 billion, according data from Reuters. Tesla sold 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter.

Tesla said its automotive operation margin was 25.9 percent in the fourth quarter, the lowest in two years.

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