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‘Let Elon take the wheel’: Bay Area Cybertruck owners regret nothing

Meet the earliest adopters of Tesla's much-anticipated, often-ridiculed truck from the future

A person is sitting in a camouflaged Tesla Cybertruck with the door open, parked outdoors.
Hop in, John Stringer is psyched about his new Tesla. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

John Stringer stood beside his brushed steel Tesla Cybertruck, peering into the front as he watched the trunk lid cleanly snap a carrot as it closed. 

Did we just witness the pinnacle of automobile design, or is this the natural conclusion to humanity’s gradual slide into anti-intellectualism and over-commercialism? 

While it is difficult to pin down exactly how many Cybertrucks are now on the road, they are hard to miss, with their Blade Runner-esque design. Driving one is like choosing to wear leather pants to a courtroom custody battle or sequins to work. Suffice to say, it’s a choice. 

On closer inspection, Cybertruck owners are not your archetypal truck owners of yesteryear, rolling around in a gas-guzzling Ford F-150 with a “BGTRK” license plate. Rather, they appear to mostly be techies, doctors and real estate investors. 

A person in a car is viewing another person opening the door of a camouflaged angular vehicle.
Dena Bernstein, front, and Gwyn Pang, back, stop to watch John Stringer’s Tesla Cybertruck put on a light show in Los Gatos. "Mind-blowing," Pang said afterward. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard
A man in sunglasses gestures inside a car with a sunroof, looking intently at the camera.
Despite now being the leader of the country's biggest Tesla club, John Stringer wasn't exactly an early adopter. He got his first Tesla only after his neighbor sold him his reservation in 2018. He hasn't looked back since. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Enter Stringer, father to four kids and three Teslas—although his wife is insisting that one will eventually have to go. (The cars, not the kids, he assures.)

The Silicon Valley native and tech worker was one of the select few included in Tesla’s Foundation Series rollout, or inaugural class, and took delivery of his Cybertruck in February after signing up to buy it four years ago. 

After getting his new truck, he immediately drove to a custom body shop in Los Angeles and had it wrapped in vinyl camouflage (to emulate the Christopher Nolan Batmobile, he said) since the stainless steel is not conducive to paint. He now drives his Cybertruck to work all three days he’s required to be in the office. 

“You’re not commuting with a regular truck,” Stringer said after picking up a reporter and photographer from The Standard for a cheeky joyride through the Los Gatos hills.

A futuristic-looking electric pickup truck with a sharp, angular design parked outdoors with blooming pink trees in the background.
After multiple delays, the Tesla Cybertruck was released to the general public in early 2024. New owners are already customizing the car to their liking. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

In fact, it was Tesla’s Autopilot feature that finally convinced him to give up gasoline entirely in 2018. “Stop-and-go traffic is so stressful,” he said. “Now I can relax and let Elon take the wheel.” Tesla's official advice for using Autopilot is to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times and maintain control of your vehicle.

Since then, Stringer has founded what might be the largest cohort of Tesla superfans in the country, the Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley club. The group—which arranges meetups, exchanges car advice and pores over all things Musk—has amassed nearly 1 million followers on X.

Their lobbying strength is such that Musk regularly engages with them online. Last year, the billionaire even taped a three-hour-long interview with Stringer and other club members.

Stringer said the Cybertruck release has been a huge online traffic boon for the club, with most engagement, unsurprisingly, coming in the form of ridicule. “In person, you’re treated like a celebrity,” he said. “Online, it’s been mostly stuff like, ‘You’re gay.’” 

A person is squatting on top of a futuristic silver truck, wearing a black outfit and sunglasses, surrounded by greenery.
John Stringer took The Standard for a joyride in Los Gatos. Stringer is the founder of Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley, a group with a massive online following that includes Elon Musk. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

He continued: “Hate gets attention though. Deep down, they probably just feel threatened that this is a better car.” 

The group has 10 other Cybertruck owners, Stringer said. According to the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) he’s seen—which can denote how many cars were made on the assembly line—he speculated that there are upward of 5,000 more truck owners. Other reports suggest the number could be as low as 1,000. Tesla did not respond to multiple requests for confirmation. But news broke Monday that the company is laying off 10% of its global workforce, citing tough economic conditions.

Tesla’s latest vehicle production report does not specify how many Cybertrucks, which cost between almost $80,000 and $100,000, were delivered this year. 

“People are going to buy this because it's just the best car, period,” Stringer said, before stepping on the “gas” to demonstrate its lightning speed. “Sorry, I probably should’ve warned you before giving us all whiplash,” he said with a giggle. 

John Stringer shows off his brushed steel Tesla Cybertruck in the Los Gatos hills. | Source: Kevin V. Nguyen/The Standard

Future Cyber-lovers will have to wait. According to its online order form, Tesla says its next batch of trucks won’t drop until next year. 

The Cyber Mayor 

Two weeks ago, Foster City Mayor Patrick Sullivan picked up his Cybertruck from the Tesla dealership in Colma. Still, the 30-plus-year resident of the small San Mateo County city, famed for its battle with pesky geese, says he’s hooked.

“I haven’t driven my gas car since getting it,” the 71-year-old told The Standard on Wednesday afternoon. Although, he said, there has been a bit of a learning curve with figuring out the charging stations. 

A man in a cowboy hat is driving a car, gripping the wheel, and looking ahead attentively.
Foster City Mayor Patrick Sullivan was impressed by the Cybertruck's design comparing it to a “DeLorean on steroids.” | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard
A man in a cap smiles from the driver's seat of a futuristic, angular silver truck.
Mayor Patrick Sullivan placed his Cybertruck reservation four years ago. The wait was worth it, he said. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Sullivan became familiar with Tesla after a company he owned 401(k) stock in, SolarCity, was acquired by Musk for $2.6 billion during a 2016 buyout.

“All of a sudden, I had a stock in a company called Tesla, and it started growing like crazy,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in buying products that I’m invested in. If Apple does well for me, I’ll buy Apple. Tesla has been good to me, so I had to try it out.”

What stood out to Sullivan was the design, which he described as a “DeLorean on steroids.” He put his name on the waitlist four years ago and was contacted at the end of last year to settle the down payment.

A surprised woman is looking at a futuristic car with an angular design.
Foster City resident Sheila Elgaard said she's ready to join Team Cybertruck after checking out Patrick Sullivan's ride in person. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Cybertruck owners like Sullivan sign an agreement that if they sell their trucks within the first 12 months of owning them, they must pay Tesla a $50,000 fine and first give the company the option to buy it back, he said.

While showing off his Cybertruck to The Standard, a handful of Sullivan’s intrigued constituents mobbed him with questions.

“I think it is so cute,” Foster City resident Sheila Elgaard said. “I just think this design is futuristic. I want one.”

A man is standing by an open, futuristic car door, with a water view and greenery behind him.
Real estate agent, podcast host and Foster City Mayor Patrick Sullivan plans to use his new Tesla Cybertruck to boost his public profile even more. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard
A man in a cap gazes at a silver, angular car with its gull-wing door open, parked outdoors.
The Tesla Cybertruck has storage in both its front and back. The Standard confirmed the front lid is indeed strong enough to cut root vegetables. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

A Real Estate broker by trade and co-host of “Podcast by the Bay,” Sullivan said the Cybertruck is popular among all demographics and has proven to be a way for him to appear more relatable to his Foster City voters, as well as presenting a unique marketing opportunity.

“I’ve had people of all ethnicities, ages and economic backgrounds come up to me to ask about it,” he said. Based on the reactions he’s been getting, Sullivan said he plans on offering Cybertruck ridealongs as a way to promote his real estate business. 

“I see this as the future for Foster City,” Sullivan said. “Fewer gas cars and more electric vehicles.”

Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at knguyen@sfstandard.com