Tesla and Rivian are poised to battle Ford and GM for the US’ electric truck market

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the Tesla Semi. (Credit: Tesla)

The US pickup truck market is a hefty prize for any automaker. In the second quarter alone, pickup trucks accounted for 33% of sales from Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler, up from 30% the previous year. Full-size trucks, such as the F-150, Silverado and RAM, continue to see growth as well, with the average price of such vehicles hitting $47,255 per unit. 

Tyson Jominy, an analyst at research firm J.D. Power, explained in a statement to The Wall Street Journal that the US car industry’s interest in pickup trucks continues to be strong. “Trucks are the one sure bet for all three. They’re trying to take every cent off the table and use it to fund their research and development,” he said. 

Yet, just like the passenger car sector, the pickup truck segment is about to feel the disruption from dedicated all-electric vehicles. Elon Musk has announced that Tesla will be releasing its own pickup truck later this year, and that it would be a vehicle so loaded with tech that it would not look out of place in the Blade Runner franchise. Rivian, itself a Detroit-based company, is poised to start producing its R1T pickup truck soon. The R1T is critically acclaimed, being a true off-roader that exudes luxury. 

Rivian R1T truck at the NY Auto Show 2019. | Image: Dacia J. Ferris/Teslarati

Both Tesla’s pickup truck and Rivian’s R1T will likely enter the market as quickly as their respective automakers are able. The pickup market is ripe for disruption after all, and any company that breaches the segment first with a truck that is both capable and reasonable in price would likely enjoy momentum for years to come. Quite surprisingly, neither Ford nor GM seem to be in any hurry to launch their own pickup trucks to the market. 

This is quite surprising considering that both companies have immense experience in truck building. Each company has also stated that it will be releasing its own electric truck. Ford provided a teaser of its F-150 EV last June, which involved an impressive demonstration featuring the truck pulling over a million pounds of cargo. Back in April, GM CEO Mary Barra stated that General Motors will be releasing a “complete range of EVs, including full-size pickups.”

Ford, for its part, stated after its impressive F-150 EV demonstration that the vehicle is not slated for production anytime soon. Ford Chief Product Development Officer Hau Thai-Tang explained in an interview with Yahoo Finance that while a hybrid F-150 will be introduced next year, a battery-electric variant similar to the unit used in the 1-million-pound demonstration is still “a couple years out.” GM is equally vague, if not more. FCA is even less committal, not even confirming its plans for an electric pickup truck. 

A Ford F-150 electric prototype pulls over 1 million pounds of cargo. (Photo: Ford Motor Company)

Considering the coming competition from younger companies such as Tesla and Rivian, both of whom are still hungry and aggressive, Ford, and GM’s decision to adopt a deliberate pace in their EV truck initiatives might prove to be a miscalculation. Such wait-and-see strategies, after all, could easily be remembered in the future as the stuff of hubris, if they are not careful. 

This is especially true if one were to look at what the Tesla Truck and the Rivian R1T are both set to offer. Elon Musk has spoken a lot about Tesla’s pickup truck, from its “cyberpunk” appearance, Porsche 911-esque performace, and its $49,000 starting price. Rivian’s R1T, on the other hand, is so steeped in luxury amenities and nifty features that it almost seems like a full suite of Patagonia outdoor gear with wheels.

Granted, both Tesla and Rivian lack the experience in truck-building enjoyed by Ford and GM. That being said, Tesla has extensive experience in developing electric vehicles, and its battery tech is second to none. Rivian, on the other hand, is backed by what could very well be the deepest pocket in the tech industry today: Amazon. With this in mind, veteran automakers might be well advised to expedite the release of their own electric pickups, or risk being outperformed and outmaneuvered by upstart electric vehicle makers that are a fraction of their age.

"Simon Alvarez : @https://twitter.com/ResidentSponge Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.."
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