Elon Musk and Tesla are keen to retain their mantel of being the best and most complete manufacturer of electric vehicles. In recent months they have been attacked on all sides by other manufacturers trying to get in on the act and providing products from established manufacturing centres. Tesla did buy the NUMMI plant in Fremont, just south of San Francisco, however they had to retool and train employees which, along with other issues, did affect initial build quality.
Late last year, Rivian announced their R1T and R1S electric trucks and recently they signed an agreement with Ford, who are also trying to get an electric F150 to market. Ford had beaten arch-rival GM to the Rivian contract which made media headlines. That clearly upset Musk who is the master media manager, so quite quickly, he tried to deflect attention away from Rivian and Ford to his own announcement … Tesla would definitely be bringing a similar electric truck to market.
Speaking on a podcast, Musk announced a sub-$50,000 truck with a “pretty sci-fi” look which “wouldn’t be for everyone”. He also said that it would out-perform the F150. He had raised a comment about the truck late last year, just as Rivian were getting all the attention, so he is good at trying to wrestle media attention back to himself. Tesla is already developing a cross-over vehicle that would be in-line with the Model 3 and Model X currently in production, however the boasts about the truck might cause some future issues. Musk has said that it will be a dual motor, all-wheel-drive vehicle that can tow 300,000 lbs (136,000 kgs), probably a big boast – the F150 can only tow 13,000 lbs!
Musk first hinted at a truck back in 2016 and suggested that the prototype would be shown in 2017 with production in 2019. Now, we are expecting to see something this year as a prototype, however here at Motoring Weekly, we feel that it is still vapour-ware and simply a way to get Tesla back in the headlines. Why? Simply because Tesla has everything they need to bring out a truck right now – they have the technology, the ability to create large vehicles, think Tesla Semi, and they have the manufacturing processes bedded in. All they need is cash, the company is still bleeding rather than accumulating, however, buyers are known for paying high deposits, so one wonders if they are nervous about flicking the real marketing switch on.
Tesla though, makes vehicles that are suited to California – big wide freeways, smaller cities and limited distances. Making a truck for real work is going to be harder, the buyers are more traditional wanting a truck that looks like a truck with a solid tray and the ability to tow, take loads and get into areas a normal car wouldn’t. Just look at the products from Rivian, Ford, GM, Toyota or the new entrants from China – they are all very similar, because that is what the buyers want!
Price-wise, $48k and upwards is a fully specced truck, most are bought for between $25-35k. Clearly Musk considers that his new buyers will splash the cash when the product is ready – the sooner the better, because Tesla will be swamped by many other manufacturers within the next 18 months.