The Tesla Cybertruck is like nothing else. The question has been whether or not people will love it or shun it. Naturally, there will be a bit of both, but where will the scales weigh heavier? It’s hard to come to a conclusion on that here in the US, but I tend to think it will be moderately popular.
Now, the Tesla Cybertruck is on the verge of going on a China tour, and the question above gets even more interesting. China is the largest electric vehicle market in the world. In fact, more than half of the world’s EV sales are there. However, many of us think of small cars when we think of China, and certainly don’t think of pickup trucks. But is that the right way to think about the Cybertruck in this market? And am I oversimplifying the enormous Chinese auto market?
From what I’ve seen, Chinese buyers love hot new tech. The Cybertruck may be different, but it’s also widely hyped as hot new tech. Chinese buyers were quick to jump on the Tesla bandwagon, and more Tesla cars are now sold there than in the US (since last quarter).
As far as vehicle size, for buyers with money, very large vehicles actually do very well. Look at Li Auto — it produces three different super large plugin hybrid SUVs and they’ve all made it into the top 20 in China. You could say Li Auto is the most successful new energy vehicle (NEV) startup in China. If that isn’t the best sign for the Cybertruck, I don’t know what is. Those are large, eye-catching but not particularly pretty, tech vehicles for rich buyers. If they can do so well in the hyper-competitive Chinese market, I think the Cybertruck can as well.
What about the “pickup truck” issue? Well, the Cybertruck can easily be seen as more of an SUV in buyers’ eyes than truck. Yes, it’s got a truck bed, but it’s often shown as covered by the automatic tonneau cover. Inside, the truck looks like an SUV. It’s basically an SUV with a giant trunk/cargo space. That could be very appealing on the Chinese market among buyers in its price point.
It’s hard to expect that the Chinese Cybertruck market will be as big as the US Cybertruck market. On the other hand, it’s conceivable. We still don’t really know how much the Cybertruck will appeal to traditional pickup truck or SUV buyers in the US, but the tech plus brand plus “I’m king of the world” appeal of the Cybertruck could make it a huge hit in China.
— ThinkerCar (@thinkercar) January 23, 2024
We’ll see, but the good news is that Tesla is ready to bring the Cybertruck to China for a big show & tell tour. It will reportedly be headed to Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi’an.
One last note: There are apparently concerns about the Cybertruck’s classification and on-road restrictions related to that. “Despite the apparent enthusiasm surrounding the Cybertruck’s China tour, the vehicle’s future in the country is shrouded in uncertainty. Pickup trucks are classified as light trucks in China, and they face restrictions compared to passenger cars like the Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover, both of which are selling at volume in the country,” Teslarati writes. “As noted in a CNEV Post report, pickup trucks are required to drive on the rightmost ‘slow’ lane on highways, and they are only allowed to travel up to 100 kph (62 mph). Regular passenger cars, on the other hand, can travel up to 120 kph (75 mph) on the highway. China also implements a 15-year lifespan for pickup trucks before mandatory scrapping, and some Chinese cities impose limitations on pickup trucks entering urban areas.” I do wonder if Tesla will try to get the Cybertruck reclassified, into whatever category Li Auto’s behemoths are classified in. However, either way, I could see buyers accepting the moderate restrictions and flaunting their high ride in the slow lane.
What are your thoughts on the Tesla beast’s prospects in the Red Giant?
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