Elon Musk and Tesla certainly set the fox among the chickens when they unveiled the Cybertruck last month. Love it or hate (I am in the latter category), it has totally transformed the conversation about electric pickup trucks. It was certainly the most popular topic of conversation by far in the hot tub at CleanTechnica Towers during our recent December eggnog fest.
The people at Autolist talked to 1,100 people currently shopping for a new vehicle at the end of November and early December and asked them which of the four upcoming electric trucks they would prefer — the as yet unnamed General Motors pickup, Ford’s electric F-150, the Tesla Cybertruck, or Rivian’s R1T — assuming similar specs. The results are shown below.
“Frankly, these results are good for all four brands,” says Autolist analyst Chase Disher. “It shows that Ford and GM can leverage their considerable — and existing — truck followings to boost interest in their EV models. Meanwhile, it shows that Tesla and Rivian could be poised to grab a meaningful share of a crucial new growth segment.” It also shows all those auto execs crying into their beer about how “nobody wants to buy electric vehicles” are full of leftover Thanksgiving stuffing.
Interest By Prior Truck Ownership
Perhaps the most interesting finding of this poll is that interest in the various vehicles changes considerably depending on whether the person answering the questions had ever owned a pickup truck before.
Among prior truck owners (50%), the preference was:
- GM Electric truck: 35%
- Ford F-150 Electric: 28%
- Rivian R1T: 23%
- Tesla Cybertruck: 14%
For those who have never owned a pickup truck before (49%), the numbers were reversed.
- Tesla Cybertruck: 25.8%
- Rivian R1T: 24.8%
- Ford F-150 Electric: 24.7%
- GM Electric truck: 24.7%
“What this tells us is that the upcoming Rivian and Tesla trucks can coexist on the market as newcomers without cannibalizing sales from one another,” Disher says. “The Rivian can appeal to a more traditional truck buyer looking for something fresh, while the Tesla can appeal to those new to the segment looking for a more performance-based model.”
Interest By Brand
Brand loyalty is a big factor when it comes to pickup trucks. The top 5 reasons people gave for preferring the rumored electric pickup truck from Chevrolet/GM/Hummer were:
- Prefer/trust GM brands more than others: 62%
- Expected reliability: 41%
- Expected performance: 37%
- I currently own or have owned a GM pickup: 27%
- Expected vehicle size: 27%
“This survey indicates that GM — regardless of which brand they launch their EV truck with — has the most to gain from awareness and trust in its current products,” Disher says. “This is likely due to the combination of a strong truck portfolio and a longer EV legacy than most incumbent automakers.”
For those who preferred the upcoming Ford electric pickup, the numbers were similar:
- Prefer/trust Ford more than others: 54%
- Expected reliability: 52%
- Expected performance: 38%
- Expected vehicle size: 27%
- Expected practicality and features: 26%
“Like GM, Ford should be able to capitalize on its widespread awareness and trust in the F-150 name,” Disher says. “It’s practically its own brand within Ford, and its immense annual sales volumes should give the upcoming electric version a leg up in terms of overall sales.”
When it comes to Rivian and Tesla, the reasons people chose for preferring one or the other were revealing. For the Rivian R1T, the top 5 reasons were:
- Exterior styling: 75%
- Expected vehicle size: 35%
- Expected performance: 35%
- Expected practicality and features: 30%
- Expected efficiency: 21%
“The Rivian R1T falls on the premium end of the growing lifestyle truck segment and offers a unique mix of aspirational features and everyday practicality,” Disher says. “It’s just different enough so as to attract plenty of well-heeled, outdoor-minded buyers, but unlike the Tesla, the Rivian’s shape and design are familiar enough to make existing truck owners feel comfortable driving one.”
And then there is the Tesla Cybertruck. Those of you old enough to remember Sesame Street may recall a little ditty that went like this: “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” Nothing could be truer of the proposed electric pickup from Tesla. It is unlike any production vehicle ever produced, with the possible exception of Buckminster Fuller’s iconic Dymaxion. The top 5 reasons people gave for preferring it reveal a lot about the future of transportation and Tesla’s place in that future.
- Expected performance: 50%
- Expected efficiency: 33%
- Tesla’s Autopilot: 33%
- Tesla’s Supercharging network: 29%
- Expected practicality and features: 26%
Whereas pickup trucks are often associated with brawny metrics like cargo capacity and towing ability, the Cybertruck seems to appeal to another demographic entirely, one that values the “vehicle as computer on wheels” that all Teslas have been since the first Model S. The numbers also highlight the advantage Tesla’s Supercharger network and Autopilot technology bring to the table. Those factors will apply to all Tesla products going forward.
“This shows us what’s drawing people to the Tesla truck,” Disher says. “It’s not outright practicality, efficiency, towing or hauling capabilities as is generally the case with pickups. Fans of this truck like it for its promised performance first.”
Preferences By Age
It will come as no surprise to learn that that younger respondents — under the age of 28 — were strongly attracted to the Tesla CyberTruck while older shoppers preferred the offerings from GM and Ford.
Among 18 to 28 years old, the Cybertruck was the clear winner, with Ford’s F-150 Electric ranking second, Rivian’s R1T coming in third, and GM’s EV truck in fourth. Among 29 to 35 year olds, the Rivian was the most popular with shoppers, followed by GM, Ford, and Tesla. Those results repeated themselves for shoppers 46-55 years old. People older than 55 put GM on top, Ford second, Rivian third, and Tesla at the bottom.
“This is both a blessing and a curse for Tesla,” Disher says. “While any automaker welcomes the enthusiasm of a younger buyer, it’s typically the older, affluent consumer who actually buys more of these high-dollar vehicles.”
All of these polling numbers are just idle speculation at this point, since none of these vehicles are actually available to the public. But one thing is clear, there is an entire market segment, composed mostly of younger people, who put performance and technological geewizardry ahead of GVWR, towing capacity, and “my truck looks meaner than your truck” styling. The traditional auto companies have completely missed this market segment and may even have been unaware of its existence — until now.
The first Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan twins created an entirely new market segment known as the minivan. The first Ford Explorer, which was nothing more than a Ranger pickup truck with a passenger car body bolted on top of the frame, created another new market segment known as the sport utility vehicle. Now Tesla has done it again. The Cybertruck has ignited a passion for a class of vehicle that did not exist previously, forcing the rest of the industry to play catchup — something Elon Musk and Tesla are very good at doing.
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