Welcome to a FREE preview of our weekly exclusive! Each week our team goes ‘Beyond the News’ and handcrafts a special edition that includes our thoughts on the biggest stories, why it matters, and how it could impact the future.
You can receive this newsletter along with all of our other members-exclusive newsletters, become a premium member for just $3/month. Your support goes a long way for us behind the scenes! Thank you.
The Tesla Truck reveal is only a month away now, and a few more specifics about what it looks like have been revealed by Elon Musk. We already expected something cyberpunk, but now we also are to expect a military-styled armored personnel carrier as part of its inspiration. This all sounds very cool as a concept vehicle, perhaps, but will it sound cool to a large enough consumer base to be worth the time and effort to put in on the market?
Actually, another question has started to creep into my mind: What exactly is the point of the Tesla Truck?
Whereas other Tesla vehicles were designed to directly take on ICE cars and revolutionize the EV market in their own sporty or practical way, the pickup truck market seems to be more particular about what converts a potential customer into an actual customer. That said, a cyberpunk beast is an odd choice for a company that has proven so many EV myths false and arguably inspired a lot of legislation to be aimed squarely at legacy manufacturers. If Tesla can do it, regulators seem to say, so can you. But one area EVs really need to take on to truly be a completely mainstream option is pickup trucks.
That’s where Rivian seemed to be coming in, albeit their starting prices are a bit on the high side for the mainstream truck customer. It could all be proven completely worth the expense down the line, but when Tesla fired shots with an “under $50k” potential truck price tag, it certainly seemed like there was going to be a real shakeup that put an affordable and all-electric work truck on the road soon. The more I hear about the style of the Tesla Truck, though, the more I scratch my head. Yes, Rivian did their own style thing with the piggy-nose headlights, but that was really just one feature people have started to warm up to. The point of it was also so they would be very recognizable and distinguished as their brand. An entire vehicle going against the grain is a different matter entirely.
I know Musk has his mantra of aiming to design a vehicle that he would personally want to buy, and I respect the logic behind that. However, there’s also the other angle about him that doesn’t jive with Harrison Ford being behind the wheel of this kind of Tesla in a Hollywood production: Making EVs mainstream.
Sure, the Model S and even Model X aren’t really practical purchases for more fiscally-limited consumers (i.e., most of them). There’s an argument to be made for them, though. After proving that EVs could be amazing, the improvements that went into their manufacturing has now translated into the mass market Model 3. There’s already an existing parallel in the ICE world on this as well via racing. The US gas company Sonoco exemplifies this with their motto that their gas is the “official fuel of NASCAR” despite regular car fuel being totally different from racing car fuel. The thought is that if they know how to manufacture super performance gas, their fuel will have an overall higher level of refinement technology that your car will benefit from. I have no idea if it actually does, but that’s the message.
That said, maybe the Tesla Truck is supposed to be this beast that has amazing specs which inspire customers to crave a “normal” looking truck from Tesla to eventually be produced. The next question will be whether enough buyers will go along with the cyberpunk thing and justify the expense from all the tweaks that will inevitably be necessary to develop a mass market pickup truck to follow. The Model S was very expensive, but it was still a traditionally designed sedan which appealed to a large enough consumer base to help fund Tesla’s next developments.
The Tesla Truck is kind of an outlier on this thinking, too. It will be a somewhat inexpensive truck with an even smaller consumer base. Or, does Musk hope to change what people think of in terms of a pickup truck? I am a staunch doubter on this, period. If there’s one thing the pickup market doesn’t seem to be very open to, it’s that sort of radical change. I’ll gladly be proven wrong, but until that day comes, I can’t really entertain this possibility.
Maybe Musk isn’t going for a mass market pickup at all. Maybe he just wants to prove that he can make a truck, make it cheaper, and make it better.
Then again, the Taycan also wasn’t supposed to be a true Tesla competitor, either, yet here we are. Plaid Mode is capturing headlines and significant interest in the EV community. Would we be hearing about it so soon without the Taycan reveal? I have my doubts, but who really knows?