Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tesla Contemplates The American Pickup Truck

In his latest Master Plan, Elon Musk says Tesla will expand its offerings to cover segments of the market not currently addressed. That includes long haul, heavy duty tractors to replace the diesel powered beasts of burden that move most of the world’s consumer goods today. It also includes adding a pickup truck to the lineup of vehicles Tesla sells.
Tesla pickup truck
Everything at Tesla starts with a name. What would its electric pickup be called? The obvious choice — Model T — has long since been taken. Model PU? Nah, not a good marketing move. Maybe Model P would do the trick. The heavy duty truck is already referred to a the Tesla Semi, so perhaps some new nomenclature is about to enter the Tesla lexicon.
Tesla’s first problem will be cracking the American pickup truck market, which is dominated by offerings from the Big Three — Ford, Chevy, and Dodge. Toyota and Nissan have been trying to get a seat at the table for decades without much success. Truck people just like their Rams, Silverados and F-150s. If Tesla is going to play this game, it will need to offer customers what they want — a big, beefy truck that can go off road once in a while and haul the family camper up to the mountains on vacation.
That’s asking a lot from an electric vehicle. Having the battery pack hanging down low to the ground makes it vulnerable to rocks and other hazards once the pavement ends. Getting the Airstream through Rabbit Ears Pass will take a battery about the size of Rhode Island — unless Tesla has something up its sleeve when it comes to new battery technology. The Model X SUV struggles to reach 200 miles of range while towing stuff. What happens when the towing demand ratchets up to the 10,000 lbs serious truck owners expect?
And who are truck owners, anyway? Writing at Teslarati, commercial driver and passionate truck owner Aaron Turpen says in the heartland, a truck is something many people rely on to earn a living — farmers, ranchers, construction workers, and the like. They can put 30,000 to 50,000 hard miles on their vehicles every year and expect tough, dependable trucks that can take on whatever task is necessary.
Turpen also sees a problem with Tesla’s direct to customers sales model. One of the biggest markets for pickups is Texas, a state that so far staunchly refuses to allow Tesla to do business within its borders. Model S owners may be content (if a little grumpy) about having to drive to Oklahoma to get their cars, but truck buyers may be less inclined to do so.
Are all these factors problems for Tesla or precisely the kind of challenges Elon Musk thrives on? The Master Plan suggests more details about the Semi and the pickup truck may be forthcoming in a year or so (In Elon time, that means before the end of the decade). For the doubters, keep in mind that the Model S has only been on the market for a little over 4 years. In that time, it has risen to the top of the sales charts for luxury cars in almost every major market in the world, including Germany, where Mercedes, BMW, and Audi have ruled the autobahns for generations.
If you are a truck executive at any of the Big Three auto companies, you might be inclined to sit back, light up a cigar, and watch the sales totals climb. But that could be a mistake. Musk loves disrupting conventional thinking. If he is building a pickup truck, it will be a “compelling vehicle,” a phrase he is fond of. The industry should be planning ahead now. Once people start trading in the Super Duper Duties for Tesla Trucks, it will be too late to do anything but play catch up.
Source: Teslarati   Image credit: Top Speed

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