Tesla Pickup Truck — $49,000 Base Price (Or Lower) Is The Aim

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Elon Musk revealed in an interview released today that the Tesla will aim for a base price of $49,000 for its coming pickup truck. The company also aspires for it to have better “truck-like capability” than a Ford F-150, whilst being a better sports car than a standard Porsche 911.

The new interview consists of an hour-long chat with Ryan McCaffrey, host of the excellent Ride The Lightning podcast. The interview covers plenty of ground and is well worth listening to in full. Ryan McCaffrey is extremely knowledgeable about Tesla, enabling him to focus on questions about the company and its products that typical media interviewers don’t have the background to ask. Several nuggets of information came out in the interview, but what stood out for me was some new information about the Tesla pickup truck.

Ryan McCaffrey asked whether the Tesla pickup truck would aim for pricing around the Model S and Model X level, or whether it could make its way to lower price points. Elon Musk responded:

“We don’t want it to be really expensive. I think it’s got to start at less than $50,000, it’s got to be like $49,000 starting price, maximum, ideally less. … It’s got to be something that’s affordable. There will be versions of the truck that are more expensive, but you’ve got to be able to get a really great truck for $49,000, or less.”

The Ford F-150 pickup truck, the top selling vehicle (of any category) in the US starts at a base list price of $28,155. Although, with popular options, the average selling price is $46,700, and it can sell for over $70,000 towards the high end. If Tesla can produce a compelling base variant of its pickup truck for $49,000, with the inherent running cost advantages of an electric powertrain, that’s going to compete well on overall economics with the average overall cost of an F-150. Ford sold over 900,000 F-150s in 2018.

Moving on to some of the characteristics Tesla is aiming for with the truck, Musk continued:

“It’s got to have incredible functionality, from a load-carrying stand point, [and] look amazing. It won’t look like a normal truck, so it’s going to look pretty sci-fi. That means it’s not going to be for everyone — like, if somebody just wants to have a truck that just looks like trucks have looked for the last 20 years, 30 years, or 40 years, then this probably isn’t for them. But this is going to be a truck which is more capable than other trucks. … The goal is to be a better truck than a [Ford] F-150, in terms of truck-like functionality, and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.”

Those sound like lofty goals. For the first try at a pickup truck to have functionality, especially load carrying, that competes with the long-term segment leader, the Ford F-150, would be impressive. No doubt there will be some unique and innovative features that Tesla will bring to the table, having dropped hints about an innovative suspension design in the past.

To have sports car characteristics that compete with a standard Porsche 911 sounds pretty outlandish. Although, on paper at least, a performance version of the truck should readily out-accelerate the standard 911 (around 4 and a half seconds for the manual version) in the 0–60 mph dash. However, the 911 platform is predominantly designed for road feel, feedback, and handling, not outright acceleration per se. It would be a tall order for even a performance Tesla pickup to match even a standard 911 around a twisty track. But not impossible? With a center of gravity likely much, much lower than most pickup trucks, the Tesla certainly has the potential to handle much more like a sports car than any fossil-powered truck ever has.

Keeping on the topic of the appearance, referencing the sole teaser image that has been released about the truck, Ryan McCaffrey also asked “which end of the truck was that?” Elon Musk responded:

“The front. … It’s kind of like a Blade Runner truck. That’s the idea. It’s not going to be for everyone … for sure, when we unveil this thing, there’ll be some people who are like — ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like a truck, I don’t want to buy it.’ It’s like when they came out with automobiles, people were like — ‘Oh, I like a horse and carriage.’ … ‘Sure, okay, you can stick with your horse and carriage, but you’re going to get an automobile later (you just don’t know it).'”

Up to now, Tesla’s vehicle designs have had fairly conventional, classic aesthetics. It sounds as though the pickup will be a clear departure from this trend. If we combine the above teaser image (now knowing that it represents the front of the truck, likely from a tilted perspective) with the more general image at the top of the article, it suggests that the front of the truck will not have a conventional “hood” at all, but a fairly clean, sloping front starting from the roofline, taking in the windscreen, and down to the fender. If that’s in the right ballpark, it’s no surprise that Musk has called it a “Blade Runner truck” with a highly unconventional aesthetic.

I highly recommend that Tesla fans subscribe to Ryan McCaffrey’s excellent podcast — Ride the Lightning — if you haven’t already done so. Below you can listen to the interview with Elon Musk via a YouTube version (the pickup truck section starts at around the 50:00 mark in the video). What aspects of the interview stood out for you? Please join in the comments.

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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at MaximilianHolland.com, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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