Could Tesla Dominate the Electric Pickup Truck Market?


Sep. 9 2019, Updated 10:48 a.m. ET

  • According to Elon Musk, Tesla could unveil its electric pickup truck in November.
  • The pickup truck market is one of the most lucrative vehicle markets in the US right now. The competition around the electric versions of pickup trucks is also expected to heat up.
  • Ford is expected to come out with an all-electric version of its best-selling F-150 truck in a few years. Amazon-backed Rivian is also making moves in this space.
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Tesla’s much-awaited pickup truck

Initially, Tesla (TSLA) was expected to unveil its much-awaited pickup truck this summer. At Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in June, CEO Elon Musk said that shareholders could expect the unveiling in the summer. According to Inside EVs, he added that “the truck will look ‘cyberpunk’ like it’s come from a ‘sci-fi movie.'”

In a tweet in late July, Musk suggested that the company could unveil the pickup truck in “maybe 2 to 3 months.” On September 7, a Twitter user asked Musk if the company would be able to reveal the truck before October’s end. To this, Musk replied, “November most likely.” Investors are taking this tentative deadline from Musk with a pinch of salt given his previous overambitious deadlines.

Competition for electric pickup trucks heats up

The US auto industry is seeing waning demand. However, the truck and SUV market is keeping hope alive for the sector. Pickup trucks, in particular, are still generating handsome profits for automakers. Ford (F), General Motors (GM), and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) are even getting into price wars to make the most of this lucrative segment. This may be why Tesla is trying its hand at an all-electric version of the pickup truck. The competition in this segment, however, is expected to heat up.

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Competition from Ford’s all-electric F-150

Tesla’s truck is going to have tough competition from Ford’s all-electric F-150. The F-150 has remained the best-selling pickup truck in the US for 42 consecutive years. In July, Ford released a video of its electric F-150 pickup truck. The video shows the electric F-150 towing 1.25 million pounds. According to CNBC, “The towing weight shown in the video is roughly four times more than the 300,000 pounds Musk tweeted Tesla’s pickup would be capable of towing last year.” The truck is still expected to be a few years out in terms of production.

According to Automotive News Canada, Ted Cannis, Ford’s global director of electrification, said that Ford would introduce its first long-range EV (electric vehicle), the Mach E, in 2020. He added, “That will be followed as soon as a year later by a full-electric F-150.” Since F-series trucks are a mainstay at Ford, it’s expected to go all out to preserve its market dominance in the space—even if that means releasing electric versions of its traditional trucks.

General Motors said in April that it was also developing an all-electric truck. The production for that vehicle, however, is still a few years out.

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Rivian to provide tough competition to Tesla

Amazon-backed (AMZN) Rivian is also entering the fray of electric pickup trucks. Rivian’s R1T pure-electric pickup truck is expected to start production soon. As per CarandDriver, the R1T is expected to go on sale in late 2020 starting at $69,000.

Expected price and features of Tesla’s pickup truck

In June, CNBC reported Musk as saying that Tesla’s pickup truck “will be a better truck than an F-150 in terms of truck-like functionality, and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.”

In terms of price, Musk stated that it would have a target price of under $50,000. He highlighted this during Tesla’s Ride the Lightning podcast in June, according to Inside EVs. Tesla’s only Model 3 is currently priced under this level. Therefore, consumers are understandably doubtful as to whether Tesla can come up with a truck in that range with all the features Musk has touted. The range for the pickup truck, as hinted by Musk, could be between 400 and 500 miles.

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In tweets, Musk has hinted at various features of the truck, including “power outlets allowing use of heavy duty 240V, high power tools in field all day. No generator needed.” He added, “The Tesla Truck will have dual motor all-wheel drive w crazy torque & a suspension that dynamically adjusts for load. Those will be standard.”

Could Tesla trump legacy automakers and startups with its pickup?

Whether legacy automakers and new companies such as Rivian will be able to take on Tesla’s pickup truck is still in question. However, until now, Tesla has clearly shown its dominance in the all-electric space—be it with the launch of the Roadster, the increasing number of mass-market Tesla Model 3s, or the vision that EVs are the future and are capable of generating profits. Other legacy automakers have launched EVs over the years, but they haven’t been very successful. In fact, previously, legacy automakers built EVs only to meet zero-emission standards.

Granted, Tesla doesn’t have as much experience developing pickup trucks as its rivals Ford and GM. However, what the company lacks in pickup truck experience, it makes up for in EV manufacturing experience.

We discussed how Tesla’s EVs have revolutionized several markets in Could the Tesla Model 3 Disrupt the UK EV Space?


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