Nov 21, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Tesla to debut its long-awaited electric pickup truck

Tesla will take the wraps off its long-awaited pickup truck in Los Angeles Thursday night.

Why it matters: Pickups are enormously popular with U.S. consumers, but Tesla will have competition in this space even if electric trucks become a thing. Ford and GM are also both working on models, too.

What we're watching: The usual stuff — like price (CEO Elon Musk has said he'd like to keep the starting price below $50,000), range and strength.

  • A big question is how futuristic the truck is. Musk has teased the idea that it will be like something out of a sci-fi movie.
  • I love the movie "Blade Runner," and Musk pointed out via Twitter recently that it's set in L.A. in November of 2019, the same month, year and place where the classic 1982 flick is set.
  • Maybe he's seen things we won't believe in preproduction (sorry, I had to).

The intrigue: Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs tells me she's doubtful that many current pickup drivers are interested in electric models.

  • She cites survey work Cox has done showing trucks are far down the list of vehicle types considered for future EV buys.
  • However, she said Tesla and other makers could find "a whole new audience for pickup trucks — people who wouldn’t buy a regular pickup but would buy an electric one."

What they're saying

Bernstein analysts, in a note this week, said the global market for pickups north of $30,000 is around 2.5-3 million annually and heavily concentrated in the U.S.

But, but, but: They write that Musk has hinted that the truck "may sell relatively few units," and the analysts suspect this could stem from...

  • The truck's futuristic design
  • The likely price point, noting the "relatively higher prices for mid and higher trim levels"
  • The "strong market concentration and historic brand loyalty of pickup buyers."

“I really don’t anticipate the truck will be a high-volume vehicle for Tesla, but it will generate enthusiasm in the core of its customers,” Mike Ramsey, an analyst with the firm Gartner, tells Forbes in this informative preview.

One big question: Getting back to Michelle Krebs' point above, it remains to be seen how much the truck can appeal to existing pickup buyers.

  • “I think Tesla’s in kind of a unique position in which they can almost become the anti-pickup-truck pickup truck, because they’re not necessarily having to stick with the same formula people have used in the past,” Edmunds' Jessica Caldwell tells The Verge.

“I think pickup truck buyers are probably more flexible than we give them credit for," she tells the publication.

What's next: The Bernstein note predicts that Tesla will target production beginning in late 2020 or early 2021, with deliveries starting in early-to-mid 2021.

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