Musk reports 200,000 truck orders in reservation count revival

Dana Hull

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk revived the practice of reporting reservation counts, telling his Twitter followers that orders for the carmaker’s Cybertruck climbed to 200,000 despite a rocky reveal.

The tally Musk tweeted Sunday restores another source of intrigue for investors, analysts, journalists, fans and skeptics of the company, as the figures are inherently used as a proxy for demand. Musk’s tweets broke with recent practice at Tesla, which had stopped giving reservation figures on quarterly earnings calls, saying the metric wasn’t relevant.

Elon Musk says Tesla has received nearly 200,000 orders for its new electric pickup truck since the automaker revealed the futuristic vehicle last week to mixed reviews.

When asked about the Model Y during Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call in April, Musk responded: “We don’t want to comment on the granularity of deposits – again, people just read too much into those.”

Tesla shares traded up 2.2% as of 9:45 a.m. in New York on Monday. The stuck slumped 6.1% on Friday after the company’s chief designer shattered two windows during a demo intended to show off the strength of the truck’s panes of glass.

Tesla has a history of unveiling future products to throngs of excited customers, then taking deposits and delivering the vehicles years later. Two years ago, Tesla showed off a Semi truck and a next-generation Roadster sports car, but neither vehicle is in production yet. This spring, Musk unveiled the Model Y crossover, which is slated to begin production next summer.

Tesla’s website allows customers to order the truck for a fully refundable $100, and says they can complete their configuration as production starts in late 2021. Musk said in a tweet Saturday that 42% had ordered the dual-motor option, which starts at $49,900, while 41% have ordered the $69,900 triple-motor option, production of which is expected to begin in late 2022. Just 17% ordered the single-motor version, which begins at $39,900.

The $100 deposit for the Cybertruck is far cheaper than the $1,000 that was required to reserve a Model 3 sedan starting in March 2016.

Tesla never released an order or reservation figure for the Model Y. The company had $665 million in customer deposits as of Sept. 30, according to a regulatory filing.

“Reservations are not relevant for us,” former Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja said in January, during the company’s 2018 fourth-quarter earnings call. “Now we do have a large reservations backlog still, which tells us that a lot of customers are still waiting for those cars. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to share the reservations number.”

In a demonstration of the truck’s toughness, long-time Tesla lead designer Franz von Holzhausen whacked the Cybertruck’s stainless steel door with a mallet, failing to leave a dent. But when he threw a metallic ball at the driver-side front window, it shattered.

Too Hard

The crowd gasped. “Oh my f–-ing god,” said Musk. “Maybe that was a little too hard.”

Von Holzhausen tried a second, softer throw – this time targeting the truck’s rear window – only to see that shatter as well.

It wasn’t immediately clear who supplied the glass or if Tesla made what it called “Armor Glass” completely in-house. Tesla entered the glass technology business back in 2016, and has an internal group known as Tesla Glass.

Musk said his team threw the same steel ball at the window several times before the event and didn’t scratch it. Late Friday, he tweeted out a short video of von Holzhausen that has been viewed 6.8 million times.

Musk tweeted Sunday that when von Holzhausen smacked the truck with the the sledgehammer, it cracked the base of the glass. The CEO said Tesla should have thrown the steel ball at the window, then done the sledgehammer test. He wrote separately that while Cybertruck would be Tesla’s last product unveil for a while, the company will make some unexpected technology announcements next year.