Everybody’s talking about Tesla’s Cybertruck

In show business, when you don’t like an act, but you don’t want to say anything negative, you say it’s “interesting.” Well, the word “interesting” is getting a lot of use today, after Tesla unveiled what is definitely its most radical-looking vehicle, and perhaps the most radical-looking production vehicle in automotive history.

I think the first step on the road to acceptance of the Cybertruck is to forget about calling it a pickup. It may be a pickup (and a hellacious one – see below) in terms of functionality, but in terms of aesthetics (always more important in the auto trade) it’s simply not a pickup, because it doesn’t look like any pickup we’ve ever seen.

In fact, it looks like no other car or truck that’s ever existed outside of a movie set. The stainless steel finish invites a superficial comparison to the Delorean, and Elon said it was influenced by the Lotus S1 Esprit. However, the vehicle it resembles most is the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. Several pundits said it looks like a military vehicle, and a couple said it looks like a house, not like a vehicle at all

Amid the firestorm over the new product’s appearance, almost nobody is talking about its features, some of which are quite amazing. Whereas most pickups and large SUVs consist of a body on a frame, the Cybertruck is built around a rigid exoskeleton that “puts the shell on the outside of the car and provides you and your passengers maximum protection.”

The “Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled stainless-steel” body is designed not only to keep occupants safe in a collision, but to eliminate trips to the body shop. If Franz von Holzhausen couldn’t dent it with a sledge hammer, what’s a shopping cart or a carelessly opened door going to do? (It’s back to the drawing board for the windows, however.)

Unlike a pickup truck, the Cybertruck doesn’t have a bed, but a 6.5-foot, 100-cubic-foot vault, with a built-in lockable tonneau cover that Tesla claims is strong enough to stand on. Standard air suspension offers up to 16 inches of ground clearance, as well as the ability to raise or lower either end of the vehicle, making it easy to load smaller vehicles such as ATVs or motorcycles.

The Cybertruck has room for six people, can haul 3,500 pounds, and has a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds. Tesla claims a 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds and that it can outrun a Porsche 911 in a drag race, and outmuscle a Ford F-150 in a tug-of-war…uphill. The Cybertruck’s appearance is far from the only revolutionary thing about it. And the second-biggest surprise of yesterday’s launch was the starting price of $41,100 (including $1,200 destination fee). Of course, if Tesla’s history is any guide, the first units to be delivered will sell for much more.

Is this the electric pickup we’ve been waiting for to save the US EV market? Some observers fear that the Cybertruck’s unique looks will spoil the prospect of mass-market acceptance. Most car buyers don’t want unique – they want a car that looks exactly like every other new car on the road, which is why few models deviate from the dominant body style of the decade, and why all pickup trucks sold today are indistinguishable apart from their badging.

We EV boosters dream of a vehicle that can convince some of those millions of Prius-hatin’, coal-rollin’, huge-profit-for-automakers-generatin’ pickup lovers to go electric, and at first glance, the non-conformist Cybertruck doesn’t look like that vehicle. But, who knows? Once the ball cap brigade takes a look at the specs and the price, their aesthetic tastes could evolve.

Elon and company understand perfectly well that their new vehicle won’t be for everybody, but here’s another thing they understand: how to stage a marketing coup. The love-it-or-hate-it Cybertruck will be the talk of every newspaper, mag, blog and podcast for some time to come, sucking publicity oxygen away from Rivian, Lordstown, Ford and GM.

If you’re tempted to write off Tesla’s towering trapezoid as a marketing misstep, this historical tidbit bears repeating: just about everyone who has bet against Elon Musk has ended up with a shirt (or more than one) missing from their closet.

Sources: Tesla, Electrek, TechCrunch, Green Car Reports, EVannex, CNET, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, New York Times, CNN, The Guardian

  • More2bits

    I’ll order one. $100 deposit is trivial and I’ll dump off my old 2500 Avalanche long before it’s arrival.

  • Enns Jacob

    I’m in!
    If it can out work the competition that is enough for me!

  • Russell Barton

    body on frame is only seen on pickup trucks, and larger trucks. Unibody has been a norm for decades. And, GM did the flat “skateboard” chassis / battery/ powertrain as an design excercise in the 1990’s.

    • Ormond Otvos

      And promptly dropped it because it was … too different.

      I think there are plenty of early adopters with ridiculous salaries just in California.

  • Keith Watson

    when are these coming to the uk?

    • Steve Woots

      when they have right hand drive. So, just before they get to Australia.

  • Edward Mosimann

    Elon has my $100. This is Tesla’s first leap into vehicles for persons who need their rides for more than just commuting and play …or second if you include the Semi. I can not wait to dump my current/necessary work truck ..Tundra the Pig, for something practical, long term affordable and highly utilitarian. You don’t want ‘sexy’ at a jobsite, and all of those working Fords, Toys, Rams and Chevys with dented up tailgates and bad paint don’t say tough or sexy, …just weak, short lived, and abused. Oh yeah, and it won’t be a constant reminder of my pro-climate hypocrisy.

    • Steve

      What an ugly piece of ework Hans and the crew came up with. Tesla,know for making EV’s look like normal classy cars is now known for broken bullet proof windows and a stealth style pickup. What are they thinking with this thing? Only someone who has drunk the koolaid would even begin to consider this truck good looking and useful.

  • Kerry Carter

    Just the truck I need to retire with.

  • Al

    You mean “Everybody is laughing at Tesla’s Cybertruck”

    • More2bits

      146,000 orders in 35 hours and you make that claim ‘everybody’? Must be a Trumper.

      • Al

        My bad, you’re right. Only 99.95% of the people are laughing at it. (146000/300000000) Must be a Warrener.

        • More2bits

          Bad statistician. Considering there are only 2.84 million so that means if they produced 146,000 units (orders now for 187,000) in year 2022 that would comprise about 5% of all new truck sells.

  • Edward Mosimann

    Was I initially turned off by the radical design? Yes. It is a Tesla departure, as Elon admits. At the end of the day, do I want the prettiest welder, or the one that is diverse, adaptable, capable, affordable, and consistently lays the best weld bead? I will let function dictate form when it comes to trucks, just as we let aerodynamics dictate efficient passenger car design. …the fender trim is quite ugly! Yes? We’ll see how the design develops over the next years. In coming years we may shift our notion of ‘truck’, especially EV truck, to match other function driven shapes, not flowing smoothly from our historic sampling. Can’t wait!

  • Al

    “Everybody’s talking about Tesla’s Cybertruck”
    but not in a good way.