In our most recent podcast, we had a roundtable discussion on Tesla’s latest offering, the Cybertruck. As we started the discussion, our talk reflected much of what is going on out there in the marketplace, opinion is strongly divided between fervent supporters and strong opposition.
Andre Mezzalira, owner of Wings Mobile Detailing, was part of the support towards Tesla. While Thiago Saldanha and Arsalan Karimi, had a more opposing opinion on Tesla's controversial design. There was certainly middle ground to be had, but it’s sparser than you might think, and a lot of things remain unknown to us at this point. In this blog we’ll break down the main points of discussion and lay out the full course of the conversation, which despite the strong opinions was actually very open-minded and far-reaching.
First – What’s to love and hate about the Cybertruck?
When sharing our initial reactions to the Cybertruck, there was quite a lot of consensus between us, and even in the marketplace. What was that consensus?
1) The rather extreme futuristic design of the Cybertruck was a problem for most, at least that first night. Then, we started to love it.
2) It is undoubtedly a high-spec, durable and high-quality machine made by a great company.
Let’s face it, Tesla has made the electric car “cool,” by which we mean truly viable. Before Tesla came along, most designs for electric vehicles looked like toys, and certainly not machines that you’d pull into your driveway with pride. Besides the look, Tesla also made the technology and infrastructure practical and convenient. Gone are the worries that your electric car will stop working after a short trip to the supermarket. The Tesla model cars have already won the approval of many as a genuinely stylish, powerful and fantastic electric cars. It was a revolution.
We always knew that the Cybertruck was likely going to be an extreme design. We had been led to believe that Tesla was working on something truly groundbreaking. When it was finally revealed, however, the reaction was perhaps even more extreme than first anticipated. Even fans of Tesla did not come out in droves to support Cyber Trucks design (including Andre!), it was too much --- “A triangle on wheels” as one Podcast panelist of the opposing side put it. While the roundtable panelists were in little doubt as to the technological and performance prowess the Cybertruck would display, they were quick to point out that in choosing this kind of edge style, Tesla might be shooting itself in the foot. Andre on the other hand, hold his stance on how Tesla will actually lead other car makers to follow the same futuristic design.
Questions center mostly on whether or not such an extreme departure from conventional design can really help Tesla to compete with the “big boys” (as the roundtable dubbed them) like Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and Toyota. The Ford F-150 --- among America’s favorite truck models for many years now --- was cited as a clear example. Why are trucks like the F-150 so dominant now?
Because their design is familiar, solid; tried and tested to the point where people have faith in their utility, strength and practicality. It’s what Americans have come to expect of a truck. Tesla has made it so that regular truck users won’t be able to imagine the Cybertruck as a replacement for their F-150; as a worksite truck in which to carry their tools and other equipment; even a place on which to lay down a tool while they get something else.
America loves its trucks. The Roundtable, overall, seemed skeptical that the design of the Cybertruck was one that would take the country by storm, and would put off true truck fans despite its surprisingly affordable price tag. This part of the talk brought us neatly onto a new area of discussion, although the design would keep coming back as a key factor in our outlook for Cybertruck.
Next, who is the real target market for the Cybertruck?
Despite the rather pointed reaction to the design, there was a good discussion on the likely demographics that are going to (and who already have) embrace the Cybertruck as their new electric truck of the future. The question really is whether or not the Cybertruck needs to compete with established blue-chip models like the Ford F-150. True “truckers” are going to stick with their Ford, their Ram, their Chevy --- that seems very likely. For others it might be a different story.
The price point for Cybertruck came of as a surprise. The 1-motor version starts at just $40,000, and the 3-motor version at $70,000. When you’re talking about a Tesla truck, the biggest Tesla to date, these prices look great.
The price will make it a popular choice among upper middle class and wealthy suburban or big-city types who want the utility and power of a truck while also gaining the economy and convenience of an electric vehicle.
These are areas where the Cybertruck does improve on the traditional trucks, which are typically gas guzzlers, which you are unable to charge up at home because you don’t have your own gas station. Electric from Tesla, on the other hand, means you can charge at home or at one of Tesla’s growing networks of charging stations.
It’s hard to deny that those who do buy the Cybertruck will also love the durability and quality that comes with a Tesla-powered vehicle. The typical Ford or Toyota truck may well be built to last --- up to 500 thousand miles according to one of our panelists --- but when you look at Cybertruck’s battery, that has been tested to lose only 10 percent of its capacity after 300,000 miles, with an extremely low maintenance, you know that this truck is no weakling or just some luxury fad. The Cybertruck, too, is built to last. There was a general agreement that in terms of technology the Cybertruck had great market potential, but once again design is cited as a reason for putting off the trucker heartlands from embracing this sci-fi design into their hearts and driveways.
This brings us to another point.
Can the Cybertruck really compete with the the existing ones?
The announcement of Cybertruck and the reveal of the design was cause for alarm in the markets. Tesla’s stock immediately dropped as a result. This was taken by many as a sign that the company had firmly got it wrong. The recovery of the price after only 3 more days has led us to believe otherwise, perhaps they got it just right.
Is this admittedly extreme design something that will grow on people? Will they come to see the Cybertruck as merely the next step in truck evolution?
The initial sales numbers seem to support this notion, with 200,000 or so being ordered very quick off the mark. The panel was quick to remind us, however, that the proof of the pudding has to be in the eating. It’s still too early to know for sure how well the Cybertruck will do against its competitors like Ford. Perhaps, in the short term, companies like Ford may continue to do well because their outer designs have major mass appeal, and they have a long-established reputation in the world of trucks. Tesla may have a long-term advantage, however because with the Cybertruck they have applied their innovative and world-beating electric car technology and brought it to the world of trucks. Once again, they are proving that electric does work on all platforms, and isn’t just a fringe technology. It’s the future, and many big companies are lagging behind.
So, does Elon Musk’s vision for Tesla as the premiere electric vehicle brand mean that in the longer term his company will take the lead? Some on our panel thought so, but most seemed adamant that the design (once again) was the main factor holding them back. While all agreed that electric was indeed the future, the Cybertruck was a poor representation of the future in truck design for some panelists. This became the theme for the next question.
Will the design of the Cybertruck hold Tesla back?
Tesla optimists like Andre Mezalira seem to hold steadfast to their notion that Tesla will beat out the competition because they are already so far ahead in the technology. While the specific design of the Cybertruck may divide opinion now, it doesn’t matter because Tesla is still rewriting the definition of what a truck is, even comparing the company to Apple and Steve Jobs, creating a never-before-seen products that are going to change the marketplace and create a new standard.
Others were more skeptical. They pointed to examples like the Kia Stinger, which offers a much-lauded crowd-pleasing design that has made the previously less-than-edgy Kia brand stand out in the marketplace. One panelist admitted that the Stinger had somewhat converted him, and this was a Kia he could really get behind.
This, he said, was an example of a company that studied design trends, and created something that would have genuine mass appeal. They were going for that mass appeal, and not the cutting-edge, sci-fi ground breaker that Tesla have opted for.
Furthermore, they point to companies like Pontiac and Chevy, who back in the 1960s and 70s tried out extreme designs only to withdraw them later because of their financial failure. The automotive world is about innovative evolution, not revolution. Car’s that integrate new tech and display new abilities are good, but designs have to adapt more steadily, otherwise people are put off. The Cybertruck is so left field, that it ripples the market’s waters perhaps just a little too much. If Tesla were to adapt their design to create more of a mass appeal, then they could barnstorm the market and dominate quickly, even ahead of the “big boys.”
In summary, the panel felt strongly in agreement that the Cybertruck was no-doubt an excellent representation of modern technology, and praised Tesla for bringing out an all-electric truck that will force the industry to rethink their long-term strategy. Some panelists were skeptical, though, about the company’s ability to compete long term once the big companies like Ford, Chevy and Toyota decided to commit to electric and start putting that electric technology into their own well-known and beloved designs. The skeptics pointed to the Apple analogy and pointed out that Apple was truly dealing with brand-new products, whereas the truck and the car have been in around much longer and in more similar forms. The iPhone was certainly a brand-new product that changed the marketplace, but the Cybertruck has existing competitors and must continue to compete with them.
Finally – some predictions for the future
The roundtable concluded with some interesting predictions for the future of Cybertruck and Tesla.
In Cybertruck’s favor:
1) In the next 5 years, Tesla will continue to have its ups and downs and maybe even a change in leadership, but will continue to be a world-beating brand and industry leader like Apple.
2) Cybertruck will continue to grow and develop, beating out competition and showing the way in a new market direction that others will follow.
3) Tesla will continue to grow its interests, but not only in cars. Whatever happens, they will be a key industry player in technology, as well as in electric car infrastructure like their charging stations.