Tesla CEO Elon Musk just unveiled the company’s first electric pickup truck, also known as Cybertruck, at an event in Los Angeles, California. The truck will come in three versions with 250 miles, 300 miles, and 500 miles of range, respectively. And it will start at $39,900, Musk said. The truck won’t be rolling off the assembly line until late 2021, but preorders can be made at tesla.com/cybertruck.
Always a showman, Musk put the truck through its paces in an effort to demonstrate its ruggedness. He had Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief of design, hit the door of the truck with a sledgehammer several times, claimed it was practically bulletproof, and showed the truck winning a tug-of-war with a Ford F150 and a drag race with a Porsche 911.
However, when he tried to show how shatterproof the “armored” glass was, things went awry. A metal ball thrown by Holzhausen shattered both the truck’s windows. “We’ll fix it in post,” a sheepish Musk quipped.
There are three versions of the truck available:
The truck can seat a total of six adults, Tesla says. The body is made of ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel. Musk had Holzhausen demonstrate the body’s strength by smashing it with the aforementioned sledge hammer. The payload has a 3,500-pound capacity, with 100 cubic feet of storage space. The truck’s vault length is 6.5 feet, and it will have 4-inch suspension in either direction. A 17-inch touchscreen sits in the center of the dashboard, though images of the interior look slightly unfinished. (Is that dashboard made of formica?)
Musk has spent the better part of a decade poking at the idea of a Tesla pickup truck. He tweeted in 2012 that he “[w]ould love to make a Tesla supertruck” with “crazy torque” and “dynamic air suspension.” By 2013, he told Business Insider that the company was actually planning to make one. The pickup was even featured in his second “master plan” for Tesla, which he published in 2016.
Musk continued to toy with the idea in public, saying in April 2017 that a reveal event would happen in “18 to 24 months.” In 2018 he said the truck had taken on a “futuristic-like cyberpunk, Blade Runner” design, and that he didn’t even care much if people didn’t like it. He’s since said the pickup truck is his favorite project out of all the ones Tesla’s working on.
While the pickup truck has obviously been a pet project for Musk, it could also be a great opportunity for Tesla’s business. Not only are pickup sales on the rise in the US, but trucks command high average selling prices and high profit margins.
“Pickup truck buyers spend a lot on their trucks,” says Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics consulting at JD Power. “A $50,000 pickup truck is a very common occurrence now. People are willing to spend on this segment to haul their toys, to support a lifestyle.”
Tesla’s business could arguably use the bump. While the company squeaked out a $143 million profit in the past quarter, it only did so after including $164 million worth of regulatory credits and money that it’s banked from customers who’ve paid for the yet-to-be-released “full self-driving” version of Autopilot.
That said, a lot will happen between now and when the truck starts shipping. Not only will Tesla soon start producing Model 3s in China for that market, making it less of a burden to sell cars there, the company is also releasing the Model Y crossover at the end of 2020.
One of the only segments rivaling the growth of pickup trucks over the last few years is the SUV segment (and especially the small SUV segment). If things go according to plan for Tesla, the company’s business will already be in better shape by the time the Cybertruck ships, meaning whatever profit it can reap from the pickup will be gravy.
Tesla has led the charge into long-range electric vehicles, and there’s currently no mass-market electric pickup truck available for sale. But the landscape will change by the time the truck ships. Ford has an all-electric F-150 on the way, General Motors confirmed it will put an electric pickup on the market in 2021, and EV startup Rivian — which is now backed by both Ford and Amazon — is scheduled to release its electric pickup in late 2020.
Depending on how things shake out with all of these plans, Tesla could wind up releasing the Cybertruck into a market that’s already somewhat established — which would be an unfamiliar position for the company.