Musk Talks Tesla Pickup, Ford Bankruptcy, & More — Top Recode Highlights

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Recently, Elon Musk sat down with Kara Swisher of Recode for an 80 minute long chat about what’s happening in Elon’s universe these days. Mixed in between thoughts about The Boring Company, SpaceX, and what it might be like to die on Mars, Musk also shared his thinking on what the Tesla pickup might look like and why Ford is a prime candidate to go belly up next time the economy turns sour.

The Tesla Pickup

Tesla pickup truck

“I’m personally super-excited by this pickup truck,” Musk said. It’s something I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. And I’ve been iterating sort of designs with Franz. … I really wanted something that’s like super-futuristic cyberpunk. If there’s only a small number of people that like that truck, I guess we’ll make a more conventional truck in the future. But it’s the thing that I am personally most fired up about. It’s gonna have a lot of titanium. I think this is the kinda thing the consumer would want to buy, even if they don’t normally buy a pickup truck.

“So, anyway, that’s personally what I’m most excited about. But, like I said, it could be just, like, okay, I weirdly like it and other people don’t. That’s possible. But we’re gonna make it anyway, and then we will just have a niche audience, I don’t know. But if it does, then we’ll make a more conventional pickup truck.”

What are the chances Musk creates a vehicle hundreds of thousands or millions of people don’t want?

“I can’t talk about the details, but it’s gonna be like a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, Blade Runner pickup truck. You know, I actually don’t know if a lot of people will buy this pickup truck or not, but I don’t care. I mean, I do care, eventually, you know. Like, sure, I care. We wanna get gasoline, diesel pickup trucks off the road,” Musk said.

As Teslarati points out, Musk has already said publicly his pickup will feature four-wheel steering, automatic parallel parking capability, seating for 6 people, a 240 volt connection for power tools, and a maximum towing capacity of 300,000 pounds. It will surely have other goodies we don’t know about yet (and Musk may not have yet considered).

Make of that what you will. It does seem Musk’s oft repeated goal of getting gasoline and diesel powered vehicles of the road is taking a back seat to Musk’s ego here, much as the Model X and those falcon-wing doors did (according to some of us). Pickup trucks are a huge part of the new car market in the US, but how many people rolling around in Stupid Duties today fall asleep dreaming of replacing them with gargantuan titanium cyberpunk behemoths that cost the moon and the stars?

Titanium, after all, is $3,750 a ton. Steel is going for $515 a ton right now. It’s hard to see how millions of people are going to be able to afford a titanium-based pickup truck. But as the short sellers on Wall Street have found out, betting against Elon Musk can be an extremely risky thing to do.

Workhorse says it will start production of its W-15 electric pickup truck in Q1 of 2019 and that it will have carbon fiber frame rails and composite body panels. Will it be as stylish as what Elon and Franz cook up between them? No, it will not. But it may be more affordable and appeal to more potential pickup truck buyers. Time will tell which company does a better job of displacing conventional pickups in the marketplace.

Kiss Ford Goodbye

Ford F-150

Elon also had an interesting take on the future of Ford Motor Company. To date, Ford and Tesla are the only US automobile manufacturers that have never gone bankrupt. He told Swisher, “Making a car company successful is monumentally difficult.

“There have been many attempts to create a car company and they have all failed, even the ones that have had a strong base of customers, thousands of dealers, thousands of service centers, they’ve already spent the capital for the factories, like GM and Chrysler, still went bankrupt in the last recession. Ford and Tesla made it barely through the last recession. There’s a good chance Ford doesn’t make it in the next recession.”

Next recession? The economy is booming, if you listen to the America’s current political leaders. The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades, right? Well, maybe. Students of economics will tell us that things go up and then things go down before they start going up again. Anyone who thinks the US economy will continue expanding forever may want to go to Google and look up the great Tulip Crash of 1637. Or examine Japan’s economy over the past 20 years. Or take a peek at what is happening in China today.

Does Elon know something we don’t know? Not really. The subject of which automakers are going to survive the transition to electric and autonomous vehicles and which are not is something we speculate about often here at CleanTechnica. Based on the comments we get from readers, most of you have already decided some pretty big names in the automotive universe are in big trouble as they drag their feet when it comes to reacting to the paradigm shift Elon and Tesla have created.

Indeed, Ford seems to be one of the companies that is poised to get left in the dust as the transitions in the auto industry gather momentum. BMW, Mercedes, General Motors, and Chrysler are also on that list.

Ford made it a point of pride not to ask for government help in 2008 when GM and Chrysler went sucking up to the Obama administration to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. While that was laudable at the time, it may not be enough to save the company next time. Musk is no soothsayer, but his instincts have been pretty good so far.

It would be a shame to see a company such as Ford, with its long and proud history, taken off the table, but if it continues to serve up the weak tea it has offered so far for surviving the sea changes facing the industry, its prospects for the future are really not all that encouraging.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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