The Problem with a Tesla pickup

Many problems, actually:

1. We’re talking about a primarily American market, and it’s a scary one. Look at Toyota’s truck record: The Tacoma owns almost two-thirds of the compact/midsize truck segment in the US, but the relative newcomer, the Tundra, has never penetrated the full-size segment as hoped, despite advantages in QDR. It’s still an impostor. What if Tesla’s truck is likewise marginalized despite the strong advantage of instant torque? Disaster. Toyota can soak up the impact of a disappointing model. Tesla is still a tiny company and would suffer a serious, possibly fatal, blow to its momentum.

2. The built-in-America thing can go only so far. The Tacoma has been built primarily in America, by a Japanese company. Success! The Tundra is built exclusively in America by the same Japanese company. Failure. Pedigree doesn’t ensure success.

3. Electric and rugged don’t go together. This perception could change with time, but for now, it’s hard to accept a newfangled, technology-laden powertrain passing muster in a segment obsessed with toughness. True, many trucks never see off-road use, never plow, never need to flex or bend or tow. But that doesn’t matter. It’s all about perception. If a truck is perceived as potentially vulnerable in any way, forget it.

4. Range matters more with trucks. The truck image is mated with off-road adventurism. Ain’t no Superchargers out in the woods. Might not even be electric outlets. Again, most trucks never see a single pine needle and could easily thrive on suburban electricity, but that doesn’t matter. Perception, perception, perception.

So Tesla should let some other marque risk its reputation on an electric truck — or even a hybrid truck, here in the US. If hybrid-happy Toyota hasn’t touched this concept with a 10 foot pole, you know it’s scary indeed. It’s certainly too scary for a startup company that cannot afford a flop. Let Tesla grow into a Toyota-sized company before asking it to roll the dice on ‘Merica and its odd little truck fetish. Being first to market in this case might not be the best idea. Tesla certainly wasn’t first to market with an electric car, but that hasn’t mattered for squat.

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7 thoughts on “The Problem with a Tesla pickup

  1. Zach says:

    Where’d this (good) rant come from? Just the intermittent but consistent comments that Tesla should build a truck?

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  2. Juice says:

    “…But that truck will not be a commercial product, and will instead be meant for fleet sales to some courier companies. …”
    This is the genius of a Tesla delivery truck. (Franz mentioned it in 2012) Most of these commercial vehicles have a delivery route they drive every day under 200 miles (a day of driving). Plugging in every night and low maintenance is a dream for local bakers, pizza delivery, B2B shuttles, and trades like electricians, plumbers, and taxis/Uber, Mail and package couriers can now take over where those thousands of city ebikes can’t carry enough. The market is not sexy but it’s huge. (the truck should be called the Model Y:)
    Ford has experimented with the concept. http://www.plugincars.com/ford-transit-connect-electric

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  3. BEP says:

    Tesla has better things to do for now.
    Via Motors already makes range-extended pick-ups and vans.

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  4. While agree that Tesla doesn’t need to bet the farm now on a pure EV truck, I do think that Chevy could certainly offer a volt-style PHEV truck into this market. You could even market a mat of flexible solar for out in the woods charging. And since range is important, PHEVs have pretty extraordinary range when combining battery pack and gas driven electric engines.

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  5. Will P says:

    No power outlets huh? Tesla truck would be instant success. Tacoma rules off-road/small truck group, which is why its successful. Full-size trucks are a big group. Country or city, doesn’t matter, economics and performance in ADDITION to American-made, will create a giant success, were Tesla to build a truck. More space: no gas tank, engine, radiator will create dominant storage (important for trucks, especially small ones). Seats 4, has front-trunk, smaller than Tacoma with more power and hauling? Yea, it will be a beast for hauling because the mass of the batteries, crazy power, and superior weight distribution (low). It would probably tow like a full-size despite being smaller than midsize. And, independent AWD/power would RULE the off-road. Camping? How about rear cab with solar panels to charge bats, and provide power for the trip?

    Truck owners are utilitarian, not groupies. They actually understand the performance and storage improvements they would be getting, more than any other group. Electric is incredibly rugged, have you ever used a cordless drill? Or, a new battery chainsaw.. versus a traditional one? Check amazon reviews for (for example) makita cordless chainsaw and trimmer

    I don’t agree with a single point made here, and doubt the author knows many truck owners. Pure speculation.

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