Home » Elon Musk Apparently Wants The Cybertruck As Precise As ‘LEGO And Soda Cans’

Elon Musk Apparently Wants The Cybertruck As Precise As ‘LEGO And Soda Cans’

Ev Cybertruck
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The Tesla Cybertruck is sort of in production and a leaked email purportedly from Elon Musk shows how important it is that the edgy, bright metallic vehicle look perfect. The email gives some nice insight into Musk’s leadership strategy. Tesla, though, won’t be alone in the electric car revolution. Volvo previewed an electric MPV, which is a vehicle we’re sorely lacking. The EV revolution won’t be easy, however, as a new report from J.D. Power shows that tech adoption in EVs is going a little rougher than expected. Plus, VW figures out chips.

LEGOs, Soda Cans, And Tesla’s Cybertruck

Tesla Lego

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Inside all of us are two Elons. There’s the Triumphant Elon who manages to clearly see the problem and look past the obstacles that seem to restrict other people and also manages to achieve a seemingly impossible solution. Then there’s the Misguided Elon who sees a solution so clearly that he’s blind to all the problems and obstacles he creates.

The Model S/Y and Supercharger network are all stunning examples of the Triumphant Elon who took on every major OEM, government regulators, dealership lobbyists, and reluctant consumers to deliver world-changing EVs. It was, and is, difficult to make electric cars, but it would be more difficult to imagine this happening without Musk’s steadfast commitment and admirable reluctance to settle. The same can be said for SpaceX which, unless you’re a homeowner or a marine bird in South Texas, has fundamentally altered the trajectory of space flight for all of humanity.

Then there’s the Misguided Elon of Twitter (thus far), of the Boring Company, and of the Model X Falcon Wing Doors. These are solutions to real problems, but I’m not sure any one of these has actually been successful. Twitter was a train wreck, but it’s leaning towards full-blown nuclear meltdown. The Boring Company is faltering in most places and, where it is in existence, is mostly a silly sideshow. While the Model X’s Falcon Wing Doors are neat, they were riddled with problems and Musk admitted himself that it was “hubris” for trying to do too much at once with the model.

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I think the biggest challenge of writing about Elon Musk is that the same hubris that was necessary to take on NASA and Volkswagen can also clearly backfire, but it’s not always easy to know when he’s seeing the future. If you’re curious, go listen to the “Land of the Giants” podcast that our own Patrick George helped make for Vox and you can be your own judge of Musk’s motivations.

Where does the Cybertruck fit into all of this? Which Elon is at the helm? I think Musk is totally correct that people want electric trucks, and I respect the boldness of the product. One can imagine a way more conventional vehicle that looks more like a Model Y Ute. The Cybertruck is a big swing and I have trouble faulting anyone for a big swing.

Still, the vehicle has not been without its challenges. There’s an internal email, leaked to Cyber Truck Owners Club and picked up by Electrek that gets into one of the biggest challenges:

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.​

All parts for this vehicle, whether internal or from suppliers, need to be designed and built to sub 10 micron accuracy.​

That means all part dimensions need to be to the third decimal place in millimeters and tolerances need be specified in single digit microns. If LEGO and soda cans, which are very low cost, can do this, so can we.​

Precision predicates perfectionism.​

Elon​

I can’t verify the email, but the fact that Electrek picked it up makes me think it’s likely real. Plus “precision predicates perfectionism” is an extremely weird and extremely Musk way to talk. While Tesla has ramped up production across the globe with impressive speed, I’ve personally seen numerous Tesla vehicles with sub-par build quality. This has improved a lot in the subsequent years, though I’ve got friends with a new Model Y who just had to take their vehicle in to fix an issue.

The Cybertruck, with its bright metal edges, cannot hide its own defects. If two panels are not perfectly aligned there are no complex curves to mask the issue. Musk, correctly, points out that soda cans and LEGO bricks are perfect. The difference is that soda cans and Lego bricks are small and produced in the hundreds of billions. Trying to apply that kind of detail to something that’s initially been hand made is quite the reach.

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Still, people have made more money betting with Musk than against him, so it’s a different kind of hubris to assume he’ll allow himself to fail.

EV Owners Have More Problems With Tech Than Non-EV Owners

Here’s an interesting state from a soon-to-be-released J.D. Power study on new technology, via Automotive News:

Battery-electric vehicle owners reported 4.2 more problems per 100 vehicles than owners of internal combustion vehicles that — besides powertrain — contain the same technology, according to J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Tech Experience Index Study.

Huh. More from the article:

Interior gesture control proved problematic. EV owners reported 18.4 more problems per 100 vehicles, said Kathleen Rizk, senior director of user experience benchmarking and technology at J.D. Power. The function lets drivers use hand gestures to control vehicle features. For example, drivers can increase radio volume by turning their fingers clockwise or lower it by turning them counterclockwise.

Advanced technologies are more difficult for consumers to use, no matter the vehicle type, Rizk told Automotive News. EV owners, many of whom are first-timers, already grapple with a different ownership experience as they learn to charge and consider battery range.

This appears to be a perception issue as much as an actual technology issue, at least at first glance. EV owners seem to have expectations for how a vehicle should operate and also, likely, are bigger users of the technology that’s already there.

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The Volvo EM90 Is Volvo’s First EV MPV

Volvo Mpv

The MPV is a vehicle that doesn’t get much love in the United States. Offering a mix of minivan flexibility with a more compact size, America never really caught on to the Kia Rondo or Mazda5. You could argue the new Kia Carnival is an MPV, as Kia calls it, but it’s a little more minivan-ish than the Rondo was.

Don’t tell that to Volvo, which is jumping right into the MPV space with the EM90. Here’s what the company is saying:

The Volvo EM90 is our first ever fully electric premium MPV, and is designed for you to make the most of the time spent in the car, like a Scandinavian living room on the move. The new EM90 doesn’t just allow you to travel from A to B – it creates room for your life.

The Volvo EM90 will make its global debut on 12 November 2023. Pre-orders will start for customers in China on the same date.

MPVs are more popular in China and Europe (if you’re in Europe get yourself a Dacia Jogger). It’s not clear yet if the EM90 is going to come to the United States, but I sure hope it does. MPVs are good.

VW Makes A Direct Deal To Fend Off Chip Issues

Volkswagen Id. 2all Concept Car

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I’ve already covered how the chip shortage dramatically impacted new car sales, so I’m pleased to see a major automaker like Volkswagen planning for the future. Instead of buying chips through suppliers, the company is skipping the middle man and going straight to chipmakers.

Per Reuters:

The German carmaker, which previously relied on its component suppliers to purchase chips, began striking direct deals with chipmakers last October to ensure its supply was secure, according to Karsten Schnake, head of a Volkswagen-wide taskforce for component supply founded in 2022.

“Global market capacity is not sufficient. We must get active,” said Dirk Grosse-Loheide, purchasing chief for Volkswagen’s passenger car brand.

This seems smart.

The Big Question

Which Elon is making the Cybertruck? How many will there be on the road by the end of 2024?

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SMACFE
SMACFE
1 month ago

People who have accomplished nothing, acheived nothing, created nothing and are good for nothing are the most vocal critics of those whose vision and productivity they could never hope to match. It is a means for them to rationalize and justify their meaningless and pathetic existence. So go ahead and keep slamming people like Elon Musk – because they, in no way, give a crap what you think and it makes you feel less unimportant.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
1 month ago
Reply to  SMACFE

Elon’s accomplishments come from being born rich and buying his way into things he thought were good bets. The most recent of which, Twitter, he’s driven straight into the ground. He also spends most of his time just shitposting on there, and banning people who criticise him. It’s obvious that Elon actually gives all the craps about what everyone thinks about him. The only thing more pathetic than that are the sycophants who try to hold him up as some kind of genius.

Roofless
Roofless
1 month ago
Reply to  SMACFE

> Elon Musk in no way, give[s] a crap what you think

Have you looked at the man’s Twitter feed? I haven’t seen a needier person since maybe our last president.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
1 month ago

There have been auto parts built to micron level tolerances for years. They’re called ICE parts. But Elon wouldn’t know about that, now would he? Under most conditions we can’t even see something less than 50 microns, so what is the point of that. It’s also a bs comparison anyway because automotive sheet metal, no matter what the shape or material would never need to meet those tolerances in order to look or fit properly. Ironic coming from a car brand that is notorious for how bad their gap and flush is.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
1 month ago

Are they? A micron is ~0.4 thou, and even most engine block tolerances are looser than that, much less body and frame parts. Too much thermal expansion to go much tighter, except maybe on camshafts.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
29 days ago
Reply to  Defenestrator

When I said “micron-level”, I meant tolerances that are specified in +/- 10-20 microns, not 1 micron. Automakers buy coordinate measurement machines to measure engine components that are accurate to 10 microns or less, which is required to achieve these desired levels of precision. I worked for the largest measuring machine company in the world and among other things I analyzed industry buying patterns.

Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
1 month ago

I don’t give a hoot what Elon Musk wants.

G Smith
G Smith
1 month ago

Kind of a mute point if your assembly tolerances are still +/- 10mm, at least your margins will be consistently bad

FleetwoodBro
FleetwoodBro
1 month ago

Ignoring the micron directive and the personality that issued it, I just have a nagging suspicion in general about this Cybertruck thing. It’s going to massively underperform in terms of sales. Who is looking to buy a Tesla Cybertruck? This Tesla, it may be electric, but it’s a brodozer. It should have truck nuts. The market for a Cybertruck is a guy who has a F350 Crew Cab Diesel Limited and wants something different. But that guy hates Teslas. Is the Model X driver going to trade up and drive the kids to boarding school in it? I suppose there are a few Escalade owners out there looking for something more annoying. Where is the market for this vehicle?

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
1 month ago

Tolerances in microns for car parts. Let me laugh a little. I’ve done microns and it never looked anything like car sheet metal. I don’t know if that’s hubris or a management technique of some sorts.

Last edited 1 month ago by Manuel Verissimo
Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

He has no idea what he’s talking about, there is no world where Lego are +/- 10 microns, though the thickness of soda can material might be. I’m not even sure how you would measure a door panel to microns, a really big CMM?

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Lego themselves say they manufacture them to tolerances as small as 10 microns. That probably only applies to the basic bricks they’ve been making for decades, though.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Legos are surprisingly precise, but they’re also small and surprisingly expensive for small rectangles of ABS.

Alasdair Underwood
Alasdair Underwood
1 month ago

MPVs are just what minivans are called in Europe, they aren’t separate types of vehicle

VanGuy
VanGuy
30 days ago

I have a 2012 Prius v, and I’ve seen it referred to as a “compact MPV”. I would never, ever call it a minivan. I think I’ve got something like 60 cubic feet of storage behind the front seats in this, and my parents’ 2014 Sienna has ~150. And for reference, a Ford E-series has ~240.

Alasdair Underwood
Alasdair Underwood
30 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Autotrader in the UK classes both a Chrysler Voyager and a Prius+ as MPV

Last edited 30 days ago by Alasdair Underwood
Strangek
Strangek
1 month ago

The Cybertruck is probably too weird to be anything more than a niche vehicle, but they’ve spent too much time and money on it for that to be considered a success.

JDE
JDE
1 month ago

Silly Moon trucks on the road by then of this year? maybe the one that was built last year, if it indeed still runs. end of 2024, I have no idea, many of the things Elon says fail to come true. he is the perpetual idea guy that has trouble with executions, and then much like M Night Shamalayan, it is either really really good or really really bad. This truck looks bad to me though.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago

Compared to other building block toys, LEGO is not what I’d call cheap. Compared to a car, sure.

My brother and father are both engineers (the latter now retired) and heavily involved in plastics. I read a very geeky article years ago specifically about the plastic molding processes LEGO uses and more specifically the tolerances. As they want the what’s made today to snap together with what they made decades prior. I sent that to my family and both came back to say what LEGO was incredible. Tighter tolerances than the automotive and medical fields my brother and dad had respectively worked in at the time.

I must remind Elon of this mantra: Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick 2.

I’m still waiting for someone to show me something where all 3 occurred. Elon’s Twitter is 0 for 3.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 month ago
Reply to  Myk El

This has been one of my favorite websites for almost a decade now:

https://fastgood.cheap/

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
1 month ago

Future Cybertruck owners are in for a rough ride. Wide eyed fanboys will tolerate nothing less than holy compliments from on high. Haters will question their sanity, taste, and how much money they have. At the end of the day it’s just another vehicle. As a car nut I can say that I’m already tired of looking at it. If you like it I wish you all good things. I just can’t see that many customers for it. It still looks like a stack of plywood to me.

The Prince
The Prince
1 month ago

Be part of the evolution or keep your head in the ground. Elon is just crushing it and when I see some of you lame posters say he is an idiot… and idiot who changed the EV industry and is landing rockets. If that is the definition of an idiot – what is a genius? Obviously some of you posters.

Chris with bad opinions
Chris with bad opinions
1 month ago

At this point I think we’re only ever dealing with idiot Elon. He’s gone off the rails and rationality has left the building. The only idiot bigger than the one building this is the one buying it.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
1 month ago

Imagine stepping on a stainless steel Lego. Ouch.

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
1 month ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

I’m not actually sure it would be any more painful…

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
1 month ago

The fatal blow to cybertruck sales will be delivered not by Tesla or its competitors, but by the insurance industry. The cost of repair will mean some stunning policy rates.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
1 month ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

Considering that the bed is part of the body, the likelihood is that any body damage will result in a totaled cybertruck. Of course, Mr. Musk will manage to spin this to his fanboys, but he still walks, talks, and acts like a Confidence Man…

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

Precision predicates perfectionism.

Someone from the tech industry holding up perfectionism as a laudable goal is incomprehensible. Perfectionism is how projects end up in development hell and never get released.

Wait, did I just describe the Cybertruck? 😉

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

If anyone believes a word from the tech industry, then they aren’t paying attention.

We’ll get minimum viable product. And people will cheer.

pliney the welder
pliney the welder
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

” There’s no such thing as perfect ” – Me and almost every welder I’ve ever worked with

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

Meh, wake me when Volvo sells an EM-50 UAV here in the US of A. That is what is really needed in today’s world.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

Thoughts on Elon, at least he understands that Lego is extraordinarily precise but he doesn’t understand that Lego achieves that via tooling and process control. Making a sheet of stainless steel to that precision will probably require laser cutting followed by machining and the welding jigs and processes will make a Litespeed frame look like bush mechanics. I suspect Tesla may offer a painted version for less like the old Airstream Argosy trailers.
Regarding electric cars and gestures, the problem of using a gesture for radio volume is easily solved by providing a physical knob. Touch screen everything is bovine excrement

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

My favorite part of Teslas is the touchscreen, as when it breaks a Tesla becomes useless…
One of the reasons that I bought my latest daily driver, a 2007 Mustang GT is the lack of touchscreens and other techno-garbage…

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 month ago

there are so many things on a car that when X breaks the car becomes useless…

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

I suspect Musk spent a long time insisting that the truck body be machined out of a giant block of stainless.

pliney the welder
pliney the welder
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

The laser cutting is no big deal, it’s the stamping dies that are problematic. Stainless steel is easily welded using the same processes as mild steel . Also problematic ? Dents. A non – painted metal finish ( especially a grained stainless finish ) is almost impossible to repair to ” as new .”

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
1 month ago

Stainless steel is easily welded using the same processes as mild steel”

Yes, but heat distortion is a thing which has to be dealt with and would probably make it that much harder to achieve the kinds of tolerance Musk is talking about.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

Thermal expansion alone on a several foot long piece of sheet metal would blow past those tolerances. Though it would be totally on-brand for Musk to release a truck whose doors don’t work unless it’s exactly 78 degrees.

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
1 month ago

I’ll second the recommendation for the Land of the Giants podcast. I had no idea PG was helping out with it, nor that season 8 with Tesla had dropped but the entire series has been one of my favorites.

Their deep dive into Amazon was especially eye–opening.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

Cybertruck in 2024? LOL. Impossible tolerances on gigantic stainless steel sheetmetal body panels? Double LOL.

The real news here is Volvo EV MPV. Please Volvo, bring it here and charge something rational. Please?

Greg
Greg
1 month ago

So glad we are ripping the band aid off the ev’s. Finally they can honestly be talked about. Don’t know who started it, but I love it.

Until we can honestly communicate about pro’s and con’s and not name call when someone is doubtful, we can’t get these main stream. It takes an honest look at the industry and its issues to move forward and make them the dream car a lot of people have been waiting for.

it’s possible, but we aren’t there, and its going to take work on multiple fronts to get there.

Lets go!

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
1 month ago

“All parts for this vehicle, whether internal or from suppliers, need to be designed and built to sub 10 micron accuracy.​”
Great, you just made anyone at all familiar with what that means embarrassed for you.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
1 month ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Mr. Musk is a Confidence Man, and not an Engineer or Designer…

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

How about just targeting the build quality of 1990s Lexus instead of the 1993 Chameleon XLE?

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Imagine a world where everything had the build quality of a 1990s Lexus. No one would need to buy consumer goods more than 2 or 3 times in their life.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
1 month ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

We actually live in that world but refuse to believe it. Most good cars today could last almost indefinitely if their owners took care of them.

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
1 month ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

Uh, with Toyota dropping parts support after eight years, I don’t know how anyone would be able to drive their cars for more than sixteen years…

pliney the welder
pliney the welder
1 month ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

Or a 50’s – 60’s Maytag anything .

David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Sorry but I have been helping a friend fix his 2005 Lexus RX300 and it’s the worst design for a smaller SUV that I have ever worked on…
Sure my 1989 Ford Escort GT had a poor fit & finish, but it just wouldn’t die, and besides it cost me $50…

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago

Dr. Jekyll is right, with that shape the flaws will have nowhere to Hyde.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
1 month ago

I am quite excited by the prospect of a Volvo MPV. I doubt it will sell in the US, but I can hope.

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