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Commentary & Voices

Cox Automotive Commentary: Tesla Pickup Truck Reveal

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UPDATE, Nov. 22, 2019 – With the unveiling of the Tesla Cybertruck, the analysts and editors at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader provided some initial comments based on what they saw, either live or through the webcast.

From Karl Brauer, executive publisher from Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader:
The looks are polarizing, but the performance and pricing specs are undeniable. There will be plenty of demand for the Cybertruck, even if only current Tesla fans want one. How far beyond Tesla’s customer base will the Cybertruck reach? I suspect current pickup truck buyers will find its exterior design and electric drivetrain too far of a leap for most of them to make. However, if Tesla can produce a sufficient number of Cybertrucks, and if the early adopters are fully satisfied, the Cybertruck could cross into traditional truck markets, and that’s a massive segment if Tesla can tap into it. 

From Micah Muzio, executive editor at Kelley Blue Book:
Elon is a showman and the Cybertruck unveil did not disappoint. Making a truck that sprints from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, tows up to 14k pounds and starts at $39,900 is bold. Wrapping those abilities in a stainless steel, cyber punk, straight edge body? That’s ludicrous.

From Akshay Anand, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book:
The Tesla truck is certainly unique. It may not appeal to traditional needs-based buyers, but some of its performance and utility features combined with the design may appeal to wants based buyers who want something radically different. The starting price at $39,900 will also be attractive to many buyers in the electric truck market. As always, quality and production will be something of keen interest once the vehicle gets closer to launch. 

From Matt DeLorenzo, senior executive editor at Kelley Blue Book:
Styling is polarizing to say the least. Lot of promises but I don’t see how he can hit a $40,000 base price using the stainless-steel body and supposed armored glass. It will probably appeal to those who never owned a pickup, but as far as traditional truck owners, it might not be as attractive.  It will be a niche product at best and poses no threat in the pickup market as we know it today. The other downside is that this truck will have no federal tax credits by the time it comes out.

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Nov. 21, 2019 – Capping off a week of electric vehicle announcements at the LA Auto Show, Elon Musk and Tesla will step into the limelight this evening, away from the show, with the reveal of a much anticipated EV pickup. The new “cybertruck”, as Musk has called it, will push the Tesla brand – and the industry – into new territory. As with everything Tesla, it will be a high profile event.

Tesla is hardly the first automaker to consider an EV pickup truck. Ford, long the pickup truck king, has already confirmed plans to launch an electric F-Series, likely in 2021, and start-up Rivian has shown an EV pickup concept and announced plans to take it into production. There are others as well, but all face the same uphill battle of delivering pickup truck performance with an EV powertrain. Yes, the necessary torque will be there, but research from Cox Automotive shows that EV pickups have a particularly low consideration rate, even by EV standards. Also, in the most recent Cox Automotive EV study, consumers indicate they’re still skeptical of range or the availability of charging stations, two obstacles not easily overcome. Read more in the latest Cox Automotive EV study.

Still, new product from Tesla is always an event we will be watching carefully. Below you will find initial thoughts from our team of analysts.

From Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader:
It’s clear the Tesla truck won’t try to appeal to traditional truck buyers. Everything from its styling to its drivetrain will be a major departure from standard pickup trucks. As a technology statement for tech-oriented professionals and fans, this truck’s departures from the norm will be seen as assets, not liabilities.

It will be interesting to see how well this truck addresses range anxiety. The only thing worse than running out of energy is running out of energy far from civilization, which is where traditional trucks are often employed.

Pickup trucks are often the most profitable vehicles in an automaker’s product line. But the Tesla truck no doubt involves a large, expensive battery pack, and it’s long list of cool features raises the obvious question: With a target price of under $50,000, how well will the truck contribute to Tesla’s bottom line?

From Michael Harley, executive editor for Kelley Blue Book:
I don’t expect to see a Tesla truck achieve more market penetration than a Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan or Honda Ridgeline, trucks with very specific customers but unable to make even a small dent in the market share of the Detroit Three.

From Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader:
We will be watching to see how this all-American truck – from a true American brand – will be received by traditional truck buyers. Are they loyal to American made things, or loyal only to the familiar, legacy brands from Detroit? Will electric trucks attract honest truck buyers, who prioritize rugged and reliable capability in a variety of conditions? Or will the new Tesla simply turn EV buyers into truck buyers? A Tesla pickup will force the market to rethink every definition we have for pickup truck performance.

If you would like to speak with one of the expert analysts from Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book or any member of the Cox Automotive Industry Insights team, please contact us.

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