Sandy Munro knows a thing or two about car manufacturing. So much so that he is the guy people ask for advice on technical doubts about that. In an interview with Autoline After Hours we have already suggested you watch, Munro tried to explain to the hosts how crucial it is that the Tesla Cybertruck has a stressed-skin structure, with an exoskeleton. Although it seems he did not succeed in this matter, he showed them that the Cybertruck will probably be a cash cow for Tesla as soon as it goes on sale due – among other things – to tooling costs. After all, you do not have to amortize money you do not spend.
Gallery: Tesla Cybertruck Tooling Costs Will Be Just a Fraction Of A Regular Truck
Munro estimates annual production of around 50,000 units. When Elon Musk said Tesla would have more Cybertruck demand than Tesla could meet in three or four years, he implied an annual production a little higher than 60,000 units.
For the 50,000 units per year Munro was working with, he believes Tesla would spend $30 million on tooling. For a similar amount of F-150, Ford would have a cost of $210 million. In other words, Tesla would spend 1/7 of what Ford would disburse to make the Cybertruck. If you prefer percentages, that’s 14.3 percent of Ford’s CAPEX (capital expenditure).
The most significant saving in production refers to the lack of paint on the Cybertruck. Not because it won’t have it, but because it does not need it. Considering the issues that the Model 3 has with that, that is quite an improvement for the brand. The paint shop alone for the F-150 would cost $150 million, or five times the cost in tooling Tesla would have with the Cybertruck.
That is a shy production number, as Musk himself has already said. What if the numbers jump to 600,000 units a year? In that scenario, the Cybertruck would demand $125 million; the F-150, $615 million. Tesla’s advantage falls to a little more than 1/5 of Ford’s expenditure with the F-150, or 20.3 percent. Yet, it is still a fraction of what the manufacturing of a regular pickup truck demands.
One of the hosts asks Munro if this is just due to the design of the electric pickup truck. He answers affirmatively. When he realizes the hosts are focusing on the style rather than on the concept, he starts to try to explain why the stressed-skin design is a stroke of genius. We have also tried to do that with an article about this engineering aspect, but we feel it was a vain effort as much as Munro’s on the show.
He starts by showing the same picture we chose as the main one for our article, but with some explanations of what it may mean. Munro highlights the flat floor, the lack of seat crossmembers, and the simple geometry.
The engineer then compares a plane with the exoskeleton structure to one with a unibody design. They are respectively the SeaBee and the Eclipse 500. While the first was hugely successful, the second was a major flop. The complexity difference and the weight disparity are evident: the Seabee was 95 percent cheaper to build without engines.
That should have made it almost self-explanatory, but the hosts seem to miss the point. Munro then shows what a unibody is compared to a body on frame vehicle: the stressed-skin is an entirely different thing compared to them.
Anyway, the hosts still struggle with how thick the steel is at 3 mm, believing that would make the pickup truck very heavy. The stressed-skin structure has the precise intention of making the vehicle lighter. Munro still touches the subject a little later, but only to make the point that he always wondered why no car had this sort of construction and that Tesla will be the one to bring it to market.
Gallery: See The Munro & Associates Measurements Of The Tesla Model 3 Paint Thickness
The tooling numbers and this debate alone are worth watching the entire video, but it has more enlightening elements, such as Munro’s opinion on the Tesla Model 3 manufacturing. He thinks Tesla is brilliant in the electronics and powertrain but lousy on the manufacturing part of the business – as Munro calls it, the dinosaur technologies.
The engineer also says he’d import a Model 3 made in China because it is guaranteed it is a much better product than the one made in Fremont, something the Chinese journalist Yan Chang said back in November 2019.
Gallery: This Journalist Says The Chinese Tesla Mode 3 Is Much Better Than The American One
While Munro is not impressed with the American Model 3, he has high expectations about the Model Y. He mentioned that the Model 3 is one of the vehicles with fewer wiring harnesses in the world: it has just 1.2 or 1.3 km of wires. That implies it is a lighter vehicle than the competitors.
That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. The increasing number of electric and electronic equipment in cars made the wiring a big deal. Some vehicles had around 4 km of cabling. The Model S alone had 3 km. Back in July 2019, we have told you about Tesla’s plans to reduce that. The company had patents that promised to reduce the needed wiring to just 100 m, or 0.1 km.
Gallery: New Tesla Wiring System Promises To Cause A Revolution
According to Munro, the Model Y should have only 700 m – or 0.7 km – of wire harnesses. It would be a tremendous reduction already. What if it has only 100 m of wires, as the patents promised back then?
If you have not watched the interview when we first recommended it, do it as soon as possible. This is not the only article we will write about it, only the first. Whenever you have the time for it, grab some comfort food, and enjoy it from top to bottom. That will help you join the next discussion the video inspired us to propose. Don't miss it!