Tesla’s pickup unlike any in Detroit

Marketing

The arrival of Tesla Inc.’s latest attempt at automotive disruption — a high-performance cargo hauler called the Cybertruck — left Wall Street analysts befuddled and its would-be pickup competitors snickering.

CEO Elon Musk had trumpeted the electric pickup for years, promising futuristic Blade Runner-inspired looks and specs that top offerings from the Detroit 3. The final product he revealed last week had stainless-steel body panels, sharp edges and windows — touted as unbreakable — that shattered twice during a seemingly improvised on-stage durability demonstration.

A pickup that is a serious challenger to establishment automakers would be a boon for Tesla, given the segment’s popularity and lucrative margins. It also would help Tesla stave off competition in a soon-to-be crowded field as General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and several startups, including Ford partner Rivian, aim to launch electric pickups in 2021.

But after the bizarre reveal, analysts were divided on whether the Cybertruck could be such a challenger or if it’s more vaporware from a company with a history of flashy announcements tailor-made to boost its stock.

“It will probably appeal to those who never owned a pickup, but as far as traditional truck owners, it might not be as attractive,” Matt DeLorenzo, senior executive editor at Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. “It will be a niche product at best and poses no threat in the pickup market as we know it today.”

After mocking the Detroit 3 for building pickups the same way for a century, Musk revealed the Cybertruck in a haze of fog, pyrotechnics and strobe lights. He took swipes at the Ford F-150 and its “built Ford tough” tag line, telling attendees: “You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough.”

Minutes later, chief designer Franz von Holzhausen pounded on a door panel with a dead-blow hammer before throwing a metal ball at the supposedly bulletproof window, which instantly broke. He tried again on a rear window, with the same result.

The Cybertruck’s body is made of “ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel,” according to Tesla.

Tesla, which failed to meet price targets for previous vehicles, promised a starting price of $39,900 for the four-door, six-seat pickup. The base model is expected to have a range of more than 250 miles. The most expensive variant starts at $69,900, with a range of more than 500 miles, Tesla said. By comparison, the maximum now for a Tesla vehicle is 370 miles for the long-range Model S sedan.

The Cybertruck will have a towing capacity of more than 14,000 pounds and a payload of up to 3,500 pounds, Tesla said. Musk promised acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph.

Tesla said the truck will go on sale in late 2021 and immediately began taking online preorders for $100 deposits.

“Tesla tried to throw a lot of stones at the legacy pickups on the market, with Tesla highlighting advantages in durability, towing, payload and 0 to 60,” Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy wrote in an investor note. “Yet we think the legacy OEMs can breathe a sigh of relief, as we don’t expect Cybertruck to encroach on large pickup share.”

If the other automakers were concerned, they didn’t show it.

Ford spokesman Mike Levine tweeted a GIF of actor Ryan Gosling laughing; a statement he sent later said Ford is “always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do.”

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