August 4th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
First, the Cybertruck will come with an onboard generator and air compressor as standard equipment. And of course the body is reported to be bulletproof, whatever that means, with shatterproof windows.
Then there is the styling. Calling it unconventional is being kind. It looks like no other vehicle in the history of the world with the possible exception of a snowmobile trailer. That is no accident. As reported by Car Advice, Musk said in the interview, “We’re really, fundamentally making this truck as a North American ass-kicker, basically. The goal is to kick the most amount of ass possible with this truck. We want it to be something you could use to tow a boat, a horse trailer, pull tree stumps out of the ground, go off roading — and you don’t have to worry about scratching the paint because there is no paint. You could just be smashing.”
Clearly, Elon is tired of the generic American pickemups that were created by the marketing departments of the Detroit Big Three as a way to get around safety and emissions standards. Those companies marketed the bejezus out of them because they are highly profitable. But here’s the thing: trucks have now become a status symbol.
Granted, a lot of people use them as beasts of burden for commercial reasons, but an even larger number of people use them to commute back and forth to work or drop the kids off at soccer practice. As the pickup truck has transitioned from workhorse to daily driver, owners have demanded they become more luxurious and less “truckish.” They want more comfort, a smoother ride, and less noise, vibration, and harshness.
Earlier this year, BMW sent a Cadillac Escalade to pick me up and whisk me to the unveiling of the new electric MINI SE in Miami. To my surprise, I found I enjoyed the back seat of my neighbor’s Ford F-150 to the back seat of the Caddy. Trucks have come a long way, and today very few of them are used to pull a horse trailer or tree stumps out of the ground. If they go off-roading at all, it is in the parking lot at the mall or the country club.
Other companies conduct massive market research trying to glean the needs and desires of the buying public. Not Tesla. It builds what Elon says it should build. “Customer research? We just made a car we thought was awesome and looks super weird,” Musk told Automotive News. “I just wanted to make a futuristic battle tank — something that looks like it could come out of Blade Runner or Aliens or something like that, but was also highly functional.
“I wasn’t super worried about (the design) because if it turns out nobody wants to buy a weird looking truck, we’ll build a normal truck, no problem. There’s lots of normal trucks out there that look pretty much the same. You can hardly tell the difference. And sure, we could just do some copycat truck, that’s easy. So that’s our fallback strategy. It can be a better sports car than a Porsche 911, a better truck than an F-150, and it’s armored and looks sort of kick-ass from the future. That was the goal, recognizing this could be a complete failure.”
Tesla says it has hundreds of thousands of reservations for the Cybertruck, but whether a “super weird” vehicle that doesn’t ride as well as an Escalade will appeal to American pickup truck buyers remains to be seen. (Or does ride as well as an Escalade? We’ll have to wait to see.)
In the same interview, Elon took a moment to say a few words about China and the United States. “China rocks, in my opinion. The energy in China is great. There’s like a lot of smart, hard working people. And they’re really — they’re not entitled, they’re not complacent. I see in the United States increasingly much more complacency and entitlement, especially in places like the Bay Area, and L.A. and New York.”
That sentiment is interesting, since California has contributed at least $4.9 billion in benefits to Tesla according to the Los Angeles Times. New York State has also kicked in nearly one billion dollars for the Tesla Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. A word of advice to the exalted Musk might be, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Though, he may not care at this point.
Musk added, “When you’ve been winning for too long, you sort of take things for granted. The United States, and especially like California and New York, you’ve been winning for too long. So, just like some pro sports team, they win a championship a bunch of times in a row, they get complacent and they start losing.”
Musk is very much in the “run around and break things” mode that is the hallmark of Silicon Valley. So far, things have worked out pretty well for him, his company, and its shareholders. But there seems to be a darker side to Musk’s vision. His final comment about the Cybertruck was, “It’s probably helpful in the apocalypse. Things are seeming more apocalyptic these days. Let me tell you, the truck you want in the apocalypse is the Cybertruck.” In the alternative, Elon, we could work to make that apocalypse less inevitable rather than relishing its arrival and seeing it as a business opportunity. Just saying.
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