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Some Owners Report Their Brand New Cybertrucks Are Rusting

by | February 15, 2024

When Tesla delivered its first Cybertruck during a livestreamed event last November, CEO Elon Musk made a point of talking about just how tough and “literally bulletproof” the electric pickup is, even showing a video of it being raked by gunfire. Rust, however, may be Cybertruck’s Achilles Heel. Reports by some members on Cybertruck owner forums indicate the panels on their trucks have begun showing corrosion. The extent of the problem is uncertain, as is the cause. But, if it proves to be more than a rare fluke it could cause serious problems for Tesla, as Headlight.News reports.

Dirty Cybertruck

Whether Cybertrucks actually are rusting is yet to be confirmed but stainless steel isn’t as stainless as some might suggest.

Since the day Tesla originally showed off the first Cybertruck prototype, CEO Elon Musk has made a big thing out of the electric pickup’s stainless steel body. There’s no question the material is tough and robust and even bulletproof, as Musk demonstrated during last November’s launch event.

But new reports suggest the stainless steel bodies on at least some Cybertrucks are experiencing the sort of problem that has otherwise become increasingly rare on more conventional vehicles: corrosion.

In a series of posts on the Cybertruck Owners Club forum, a member using the handle “Raxar” said that he was already beginning to experience the problem just two days after driving his pickup home.

A known issue?

In the Cybertruck owner’s manual, Tesla advises that the vehicle should be wiped down whenever it rains. “The advisor specifically mentioned the Cybertrucks develop orange rust marks in the rain and that required the vehicle to be buffed out,” Raxar wrote. “I know I heard the story of never take out your Delorean in the rain but I just never read anything about rust and Cybertrucks.”

Raxar isn’t the only one posting about rust on their Tesla pickups. Using the name Vertigo3pc, another member of the forum said “the spots are definitely everywhere in the metal,” adding that a worker at the Tesla service center ‘documented the corrosion” and said they could make repairs.

Despite the caution flag raised by the entry in the Cybertruck owner’s manual, Tesla itself has been silent on the issue. Attempts to reach the company for comment have gone nowhere, as has become the norm since the Texas-based automaker eliminated its media relations department.

Stainless steel isn’t

Bulletproof Cybertruck

During the November launch event, Tesla showed off a Cybertruck being riddled with gunfire.

Stainless steel clearly does have its advantages. That’s why it is used in particularly challenging situations, whether for sinks, refrigerator doors or the exhaust systems on most of today’s vehicles with internal combustion engines.

As John Delorean learned four decades ago with his DMC-12 sports car, however, the material actually can show stains and dirt. And anyone with a stainless steel refrigerator knows it can be a challenge to avoid fingerprints and other marks. But the big concern is corrosion.

Under normal conditions, the metal “does not rust is because it contains chromium  and nickel . These two metal elements will form a dense oxide film with oxygen, this layer of oxide is also called a passivation film, which enhances the corrosion resistance,” according to website, which covers metallurgical topics.

But that is under optimum conditions. Stainless steel actually can rust “if it is used or maintained improperly, or in a harsh environment,” which can include exposure to some materials, including chlorine, a key ingredient in salt and bleaches. Different stainless steel alloys also may be more prone to rust.

More Tesla News

Are Cybertrucks really rusting?

What’s unclear is whether the corrosion some owners have reported is actually the result of Cybertruck panels rusting. There’ve been a number of alternative explanations floated in recent days, including “rail dust.” As trains move over their tracks they cause a small amount of wear, and the iron particles can drift in a breeze, landing on nearby soil or, perhaps, on a passing vehicle.

Conventional brake rotors also rust, the dust often settling on a vehicle’s wheels. Without having access to a Cybertruck that appears to show signs of corrosion, it’s simply impossible to be certain what’s going on.

“Given Tesla’s history of durability testing – which is suspect, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tesla cut things short” and missed problems with the stainless steel used on Cybertruck, said Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Guidehouse Insights.

For his part, John McElroy, an industry analyst and host of the streaming program, “Autoline,” said “The (Cybertruck) I drove just had fingerprints on it.” Before making any judgement, McElroy added, “I want to know what’s really going on.”

Possible fixes

If there is a problem with corrosion, Tesla will first need to isolate the cause which could come from a manufacturing defect, problems with the stainless steel alloy it’s using or a variety of other issues, several experts told Headlight.News.

Among the potential fixes, the automaker might need to apply a clear coat to Cybertruck’s body panels, paint them or even apply the vinyl wraps that have become increasingly common on the automotive aftermarket,

“The worst case,” said Abuelsamid, would see Tesla “having to buy back the vehicles (already delivered) until they come up with a solution.” And, if that solution means adding a clear coat or painting the truck, “That would add a significant amount of cost and possibly require reconfiguring the Austin factory. That could mean months before resuming production.

A long-term headache

If the rust problem proves minimal to non-existent, it could vanish with the next news cycle, according to several industry experts. On the other hand, if it turns out to be real, and something that could impact large numbers of the Cybertruck, Tesla would face a real headache.

There’s not just the challenge of coming up with a fix but finding a way to minimize the reputational damage to both Cybertruck and Tesla, more broadly, said Sam Fiorani, lead analyst with AutoForecast Solutions.

During a recent earnings call, CEO Musk cautioned that Tesla is likely to see slowing sales this year as overall growth in the EV market slows.

“The Cybertruck is their highlight this year,” said Fiorani. “If they have issues with it…it could increase their sales problems.


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