Just recently, Elon Musk acknowledged on Twitter that the Tesla Cybertruck might be a flop simply because it is so unlike anything else on the market. This has resulted in numerous Tesla skeptics predicting that the all-electric pickup truck’s design is so out there that the vehicle would be the company’s first true failure. Such sentiments, however, may be overblown, as the Cybertruck’s looks may not be as big of a deal as critics think.
NUMBERS DON’T LIE, AND SPECS MATTER
The Cybertruck is a pickup truck, even if it does not look like a traditional truck. This means that it is designed to be capable enough to handle tasks that are typically expected of pickups. This is the reason why the Cybertruck has a large 6.5-foot bed, 100 cubic feet of exterior lockable storage, up to 3,500 lbs of payload capacity, and a towing capacity of up to 14,000 pounds. These matter, especially among buyers who actually use their pickup trucks for work.
These specs are pretty hard to beat. Even the Ford F-150 Lightning, which seems to be on track to become one of the most popular all-electric pickup trucks in the market, does not match up to the Cybertruck’s specs. Even if rumors are true and the Ford F-150 Lightning really has a range above 400 miles per charge, the Cybertruck’s tri-motor variant is listed with a range of over 500 miles. Tesla has so far not disappointed when it comes to its vehicles’ EPA-rated miles.
A RELIABLE, RAPID CHARGING NETWORK MATTERS
During Car and Driver‘s recent “EV 1000” test, it was revealed that the US’ best electric vehicle rapid charging infrastructure is still the Tesla Supercharger Network. There are other networks that provide rapid charging services, but few if any could match the Supercharger Network’s ease of use, reliability, and sheer size. This matters a lot for all-electric pickup trucks, many of which would likely not achieve their rated range due to the cargo they carry or the items they tow anyway.
What is rarely mentioned is that Teslas are not only compatible with the Supercharger Network. Teslas can also charge at EVgo and Electrify America stations, to name a few. This means that the Cybertruck could charge at the same rapid charging stations as rivals like the F-150 Lightning on top of the Supercharger Network. This is a notable advantage, and one that would likely be appreciated by those who drive the all-electric truck.
LOOKS MAY NOT MATTER AS MUCH
One has to get this point out of the way. Trucks are tough vehicles that are widely expected to handle the worst that the elements can offer. The Cybertruck could definitely be described as ugly, but it’s just like other pickups in the market in the way that it’s not necessarily competing with exotic supercars in the looks department. Elon Musk may have a point when he noted that pickups have generally looked the same over the decades, and it might be time for something new.
The Cybertruck is designed to weather the worst that the elements can offer, and with its thick stainless steel exoskeleton and tank-like appearance, it definitely ticks off the boxes in the toughness department. With this in mind, reasons like “but it looks so weird” and “I’m not comfortable with its looks” almost sound pretty lame. Even businesses that operate fleets of pickup trucks would probably prefer a vehicle that’s superior in specs and price, after all, even if its looks leave some to be desired.
Besides, different does not necessarily mean that something will be a flop. Just look at the Nissan Juke. No one can deny that it looks extremely weird, but it has sold over 1 million units in the first decade of its production. Why was this so? Because it’s a dang fun car and it’s quirky, and it does crossover things in a very good crossover way. It’s fairly reliable, sturdy, and cheap to maintain. Other drivers on the road would be hard-pressed to ignore it too, for better or for worse.
AN IPHONE LESSON
A pretty popular anecdote in the mobile phone industry involves the first-generation iPhone and how it was received by critics. Back then, the term “smartphone” generally referred to a fairly large handheld device with a full physical keyboard and some email capabilities. Then came a block of glass with an onscreen keyboard that offers no tactile feedback when typing. This attracted its own fair share of skeptics, many of whom felt like the device was just too strange to be a serious threat to the mobile phone giants at the time, such as Nokia and Blackberry.
Just check out this section from a 2007 review from TechCrunch, which was skeptical of the iPhone’s keyboard. “That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone. Don’t be surprised if a sizable contingent of iPhone buyers express some remorse at ditching their BlackBerry when they spend an extra hour each day pumping out emails on the road,” the publication wrote.
So can the Cybertruck be a flop? It may, though unofficial trackers estimate that over 1 million reservations for the vehicle have been filed to date. But even if the vehicle does turn off many buyers such as die-hard truck guys who swear by their F-150s’ looks, the fact remains that the Cybertruck does not need the support of avid truck aficionados to be successful. It just has to show the world that it is a viable product with superior specs and durability at a reasonable price point. If it accomplishes this, then the Cybertruck would likely be fine.