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The Rivian SUV. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty

When it comes to personal vehicles, Americans are pretty clear what they like — something large, muscular and gasoline-driven. Sedans were fewer than one-third of U.S. vehicles sold last year, and electrics just 2%.

Why it matters: Carmakers are betting that in the coming years, Americans will go electric in a big way. And behind that gamble are different electrics from those that consumers have been offered so far. Specifically, electric pickup trucks and SUVs.

The big picture: For the last few years, electric cars have been one of the buzziest tech items on the market, propelled almost single-handedly by the showmanship and design of Elon Musk's Tesla Motors. But Tesla, Ford, BMW and GM have offered up almost exclusively sedans, with the Tesla Model X SUV being the exception.

  • That has been a big mistake. Speaking with Axios, Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas said the currently struggling Musk had "definitely" erred by first launching his mass-market Model 3 sedan, rather than the future Model Y crossover.
  • Tesla did not respond to an email.

Now, though, Musk and a crowd of other carmakers — Ford, VW, Volvo and a startup called Rivian — are on the verge of releasing a slew of SUVs, crossovers and electric pickup trucks.

Rivian is attracting a lot of the attention. Over the last three months, Amazon led a $700 million round of investment in the company, and Ford made a $500 million investment in it.

  • Late next year, Rivian says, it will start selling a $69,000 R1T pickup and a $72,500 R1S SUV, both capable of driving 400 miles on a single charge and going 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.
  • Ford said it will develop an electric vehicle with Rivian; and for Amazon, the investment is about building a vehicle using the Rivian chassis for last-mile delivery of its packages.
  • "Millions of people are buying pickup trucks for their daily driving. People like the image that comes with a pickup truck," Michael McHale, Rivian's director of communications, told Axios today.

The numbers back up this bet. For the first 3 months of 2019, 7 of the top-10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S., and 19 of the top 25, were either a pickup truck, an SUV or a jeep.

  • This is the 43rd straight year in which the Ford F-150 pickup is the most popular vehicle in the U.S.
  • Now, Ford says it will make an electric version of the truck. It has not said when, but prototypes have been photographed in Dearborn, Michigan.

For two reasons, few have been able to imagine an electric pickup. The batteries would be too heavy and expensive, and, it was believed, very few hard-core truck enthusiasts would be seen in a quiet, sissy electric.

  • Now that battery costs have plunged, pickups "should hit primetime over the next couple of years," says Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon.
  • In my travels and speeches, when I am in pickup country, I often ask the audience whether anyone would own an electric F-150. What I get back is a mystified shrug and, "Why not?"

The bottom line: These bigger electrics will come onto the market gradually, but within 5 years, electric pickups and SUVs will be an intensely competitive market.

Go deeper

17 mins ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: America looks for the exits after a year of COVID

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
17 mins ago - Health

Many vulnerable Americans have received the coronavirus vaccine

Data: CDC, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than two-thirds of Americans 75 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as have more than half of those 65-74, per CDC data.

Why it matters: Any future surge in cases almost certainly wouldn't be as deadly as previous waves, because older people are the most likely to die from the virus.

2 hours ago - World

Report: "Clear evidence" China is committing genocide against Uyghurs

The scene in 2019 of a site believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Kashgar in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese authorities have breached "each and every act prohibited" under the UN Genocide Convention over the treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang province, an independent report published Tuesday alleges.

Why it matters: D.C. think-tank the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, which released the report, said in a statement the conclusions by dozens of experts in war crimes, human rights and international law are "clear and convincing": The ruling Chinese Communist Party bears responsibility.