Tesla delays Semi electric truck to 2021

The big rig EV could arrive two years later than planned.

Roberto Baldwin/Engadget

You’ll have to wait a while longer before you see Tesla’s Semi hauling cargo. As part of a presentation discussing earnings, Tesla said it was “shifting” (read: delaying) deliveries of its electric big rig to 2021, or two years past its original 2019 target. The company didn’t elaborate on what prompted the setback, but we’ve asked if it can elaborate.

There are a number of potential factors at work. The COVID-19 pandemic won’t help when Tesla has had to both temporarily close factories and ask other staff to work from home. There may also be design changes in the cards like with other Tesla vehicles. As early as 2018, Elon Musk was discussing the possibility of range closer to 600 miles than the originally planned 500 miles.

Whatever the causes, the Semi delay was a setback in a first quarter that was otherwise upbeat for Tesla. It continued a streak of year-over-year surges in revenue ($5.98 billion) and profit ($1.23 billion). Deliveries didn’t reach the record high from the fall, but the 88,496 cars that reached customers were a distinct improvement over the 63,019 that reached buyers a year earlier. Most of those, 76,266 of them, were either the Model 3 or the surprisingly early Model Y.

Not that Tesla is about to cheer too loudly. Apart from some setbacks in China, the full weight of COVID-19 hadn’t hit the company’s business in the first quarter. The automaker’s Fremont factory will have been closed for several weeks or more during the second quarter, and it’s unclear how sales have been hurt by customers who have to stay at home and might be facing economic hardship. Tesla might not be in dire straits after the second quarter, but it could easily be facing a rough patch.