Stainless steel will be impossible to keep looking nice.
The Cybertruck will be a "measure of the appeal" of Tesla.
Elon Musk knows the Cybertruck needs to look good.
The polarizing polygon known as the Tesla Cybertruck is almost here, and it will probably look far from perfect when it finally hits the road.
Thanks to its unusually flat body panels and extensive use of stainless steel, the sci-fi-inspired truck likely won't be nearly as sleek and perfect as Tesla's polished renderings have suggested, design and manufacturing experts told Insider.
And remember: Although Tesla has shaken up the car business in countless ways, it's always struggled with nagging quality issues that premium competitors like BMW and Lexus don't deal with.
It all means that Cybertruck buyers who have suffered through years of delays may wind up with trucks that always look a little rough around the edges. How much of that roughness customers can stomach could make or break this crucial product launch, said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions.
"This is going to be a measure of the appeal of Tesla," Fiorani said.
Stainless steel will always get dirty in a matter of minutes
Making those flat, shiny body panels actually look nice will be easier said than done, Geoff Wardle, a former car designer who runs the transportation design program at California's ArtCenter College of Design, told Insider. Just look at this photo Tesla boss Elon Musk recently posted of a "production candidate" truck.
Just drove the production candidate Cybertruck at Tesla Giga Texas! pic.twitter.com/S0kCyGUBFD
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 23, 2023
Imperfections in the doors and other panels make the vehicle look like a rolling funhouse mirror — not exactly the uniform, space-age truck that was promised. The effect was more pronounced in earlier Cybertruck photos, but it's still noticeable here, just weeks away from customer deliveries.
"You are going to see funny reflections" in the finished product, Wardle said, adding that the side of the truck looks less like a cohesive design and more like "four flat panels that happen to be adjacent to each other."
Another potential issue he foresees: fingerprints.
Anyone who's owned a stainless steel fridge knows they are a magnet for grime and are a nightmare to keep clean. Now imagine that issue on practically every surface of your truck, which is routinely exposed to nasty environments.
He isn't sure any of it will matter to the Cybertruck's most enthusiastic fans.
"Maybe customers are going to like them to get all grubby and dirty and have that sort of 'Star Wars' look about it," he said. "But for more traditional folks, they might be bothered about paying probably a lot of money for this car and finding that the doors and the fenders look like they're warped."
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
Musk knows the Cybertruck needs to be perfect
Musk himself has indicated he's concerned about how the Cybertruck will look in its final form, saying in a leaked email to staff last week: "Due to the nature of Cybertruck, which is made of bright metal with mostly straight edges, any dimensional variation shows up like a sore thumb."
He's right. For years, Tesla buyers have complained about glaringly misaligned body panels, and those kinds of issues stick out in early Cybertruck photos. Just look at Musk's recent post again, and zero in this time on the spot by the headlight. Instead of a clean edge, you see a weird gap.
Tesla has always been able to get away with a level of imperfection, thanks to a rabid fanbase that cares more about cutting-edge technology than craftsmanship. But the Cybertruck is a different ballgame, Fiorani said.
"Musk has learned from his past mistakes – he understands that people will scrutinize this vehicle," Fiorani said. "Then you add in the complexity of a vehicle like the Cybertruck, where the smallest blemish will show up as a glaring error. He recognizes the issue with that."
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