Tesla has given the auto industry establishment a lot to worry about. Here are a few examples: a complete rethinking of how to sell a car, with no franchised dealerships; the ability to keep the vehicle’s software fresh through OTA updates; semi-autonomous driving; wild stock prices. The irreverent nature of Tesla has favorably disrupted the auto industry, causing a shakeup in how business is done, period. It’s had just about every large global automaker biting on the bait. But the Cybertruck continues to be a joke. And as the clock continues to tick forward, there’s really no reason for the automaker to continue committing to an inferior product, compared to three vehicles that have emerged as frontrunners to take it on. Vehicles that have already started to get in the hands of customers.
Perhaps the biggest threat to Tesla comes from well-funded EV automaker Rivian. A new-age automaker that took its time ironing out its inaugural products before getting them into the hands of customers, the Rivian R1T has proven to be more than competent in extreme conditions, validating its 800 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque by entering off-road events like the Rebelle Rally, and crossing the Trans-America trail. Where is Tesla in validating the Cybertruck, two years after revealing it?
To which, I need to point out that the world expected to see an “updated” Cybertruck months ago. This still hasn’t happened.
When it comes to the awareness of Rivian and its products, that’s probably where Tesla still has the Michigan-turned-California automaker beat. But that’s probably because Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe hasn’t been on The Joe Rogan Experience. Or Cathie Wood decreeing absurd share price targets for the automaker on CNBC (yet). But delivering on product promises, on time, is also why a car company is so much more than a cult of personality.
GMC Hummer EV
GM has made a big splash by resurrecting the Hummer name, and its macho proportions and radical power numbers (1,000 hp!) have the electric pickup truck putting off quite the vibe. The truck is also set to begin production by the end of the year, just behind the Rivian R1T, and seemingly well ahead of the Tesla Cybertuck. And this new Hummer EV isn’t some badge-engineered compliance car, either. It shares zero parts with any existing General Motors vehicle. And, when you watch the Hummer EV do its Crabwalk dance in person, there’s no denying that the electric truck is pretty damn cool. Cool enough to where even Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted to rethinking the design of the Cybertruck, which would incorporate rear wheel steering, at minimum.
Ford F-150 Lightning
Where the GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T seem more positioned to stand out in a crowd, the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning gets things down to brass tacks. For its part, Ford Motor Company has gone as far as to admit that Tesla is the catalyst for its EV push, but has focused its market positioning of the F-150 Lightning truck as one that’s built to work, and what it can do on the job site. Stats like being able to power a house for three days, or that it stands to be the most affordable electric pickup truck on the market when it launches in early 2022, are helping the electric truck garner the attention of fleet buyers, with enough reservation deposits to motivate Ford to double its production targets next year. And, for better or worse, President Biden drove one.
While the Ford F-150 Lightning may not have the thick stainless steel body that the Tesla Cybertruck may have, Tesla lacks the decades of learning and customer data on people who use their trucks for work, which Ford has in spades.
How Much Of The Tesla Cybertruck Was Just A Cash Grab?
As of this writing, customers that have put down a Tesla Cybertruck reservation deposit have not been notified that the vehicle has been or will be canceled, so the interest-free loan generated from reservation holders remains in circulation. But with the automaker pulling the original specs and pricing of the Cybertruck from its website recently (despite still accepting reservations), something appears off. And since Tesla has decided to eliminate its communications department a while ago, we’re left drawing our own conclusions.
Will Tesla ask reservation holders to go for something else? Perhaps only if a Cybertruck 2.0 doesn’t reveal itself. But like the new Tesla Roadster, the Cybertruck seems to have been demoted from industry disruptor, to yet another simple fan-boy fantasy.
“Better Products” From The Competition
The genuine flaws of the Tesla Cybertruck appear to be that it takes in zero account of any pragmatic use. Although, the Cybertruck is an incredible exercise in designing a vehicle that can circumvent just about every single transportation law in the DOT’s sizable rulebook.
Because of its gross vehicle weight rating putting it in the Class 2B category, it does not require the following:
- a shape optimized for pedestrian safety
- a crumple zone for crash safety
- NHTSA crash testing
- EPA electric range testing
Other vehicles like the Hummer EV and Rivian R1T may be classified in the same gross vehicle weight category, but GM and Rivian at least know better to implement these safety features into the design of their electric trucks, regardless the regulatory framework. It’s just good business practice, as the product would appear unfinished otherwise.
Add to it that the Cybertruck body is stainless steel, Tesla could save well into nine figures by simply forgoing any need to paint it over its lifecycle. This is based off what traditional OEMs have been seen investing over time just on paint tooling alone.
All in all, the Tesla Cybertruck would cost a fraction to build in comparison to what General Motors and Ford have earmarked for tooling and engineering of its upcoming electric vehicle offerings. See investments at the GM Factory Zero and Spring Hill plants, as well as Ford’s recent Kentucky and Rouge Complex announcements. To that end, the Tesla Cybertruck deserves incredible praise, and similar techniques should be applied where appropriate across the industry. But beyond this, the Cybertruck feels like an inferior product compared to its rivals as it stands, which bring more functionality and thought-out touches to the table. To the point where I’m not sure why anybody would want one, beyond the clout.
Was The Tesla Cybertruck A Ruse?
Telsa revealed the hulking Cybertruck thinking what, exactly? That a bunch of Bay Area sociopaths are going to suddenly trade in their Model 3 and master parallel parking a Class 2B pickup truck next to a tent colony? That the Texas brodozer crowd is going to suddenly trade in lifted diesel trucks for something that can’t roll coal? Are coastal elites going to behave poorly on Twitter when it doesn’t fit in a parking garage, or there’s nowhere to charge one?
It’s one thing to put a refundable $100 deposit down for kicks. It’s another to live with such an automobile.
Somewhere between November of 2019 and now, the Tesla Cybertruck as it is has stopped making sense. And based on what we’re seeing from GM, Ford and Rivian, it’s time for Elon Musk and company to go back to formula. That’s not to say that Tesla shouldn’t or can’t build a truck. Or that people wouldn’t buy a Tesla truck. It just should be a good one.