Tesla Pickup Truck Is No Slam Dunk



“To be long-term successful in the US, we’re going to have to have a pickup truck offering.” That’s Tesla’s Diarmuid O’Connell near the end of this video.

Well . . .

The Toyota Tundra was supposed to annihilate the D3 competition, or at the very least, give ’em a bloody fight just as the Tacoma had always done in its smaller weight class.

Surprise! Didn’t happen, despite plenty of paper advantages. Toyota brought a Telfon-coated Lexus powerplant and decades of good will in quality/reliability, plus a 4X4 portfolio dating back to the late 50s Land Cruiser, and the 60s and 70s FJ Cruiser and 4Runner.

Not good enough. But Toyota has sucked it up and forged ahead, the same way a portfolio manager would thank goodness for diversification and just keep movin.’

Tesla has torque. And fuel savings, and American blood, and juggernaut brand momentum. What they’re not enough? What if truck guys simply cannot get Bob Seger and hay bales out of their heads? Pretty horsies run deep, you know. And there ain’t no Superchargers out in the wilderness, where trucks totally roam, like, all the time. And you can’t declare that some electric battery truck can withstand this here boulder to the belly or this here flex maneuver with a spine-cracking angle of approach and departure while also carrying the Space Shuttle in the bed. Or something.

Could Tesla just soak up a product flop and forge ahead? Many years from now, maybe. Tesla’s financials might look very different by, say, 2025. Let’s hope so, because the truck market is scary stuff.

Counterpoint: Trucks do come in many guises. The smallish model 3 platform might be destined not for haulin’ hogs but instead smokin’ Ferraris. GMC Cyclone, anyone?

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*Editor’s Note: This and other Tesla-related posts appear on TeslaMondo. Check it out here.

Categories: Tesla, Trucks

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44 Comments on "Tesla Pickup Truck Is No Slam Dunk"

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Never mind all that. 3 ton nonsense!

What happened to the real pick ups? Car/station wagon sized Chevy S10s, Isuzus and Mazda pickups? I know there’s a “chicken tax”, but Tesla can surely get around that as it does and build a car sized pickup for city and town work. It doesn’t need to be a soot spitting, monster-truck-wannabe behemoth, which would be the worst template for an EV, for efficiency at least.

Yeah, any truck Tesla built would have to be small and creatively designed to be aerodynamic but still a truck. Otherwise it would be super expensive or short range. I think trucks will be PHEVs for now.

A beefed up 180 mile-mid range 3/4 ton quad cab with towing would be more than adequate. Growing up on a farm the average round trip was no more than 30 miles (Farmers usually need to be close to home everyday with animals to look after…that’s how it was for us). If they built one at a comparable price and capabilities to a GM HD crew cab I wouldn’t look twice at a model 3 as my next EV. I hope they put a concept out soon. Just think of all that fuel savings for farmers.

The fundamental problem with the Tacoma/Colorado size pick up is that for only 3-5K more you can have a full-size pickup. Add to that that the MPG bump isn’t that much 1-5mpg and it becomes very hard to justify buying a new one. Notice how little effort Toyota has put into the Tacoma. The same crowd keeps buying them and they are loved in the used market but it’s not a massive volume segment.

Pop over to Jalopnik, look up the Colorado and Tacoma’s reviews and comment sections. We’ve all been around and around about this. Yes small trucks are awesome, unfortunately regular folks want bigger and the value proposition is weak. The hottest truck segment is the luxury truck.

Therefore if Tesla is going to make a truck they would do best to make it a full-size (F150) and to target luxury, not fleet, buyers.

Most buyers buy a Tacoma because it’s a Tacoma…take a look on craiglist and on any one day there are several Tacomas and 4Runners that have 300-400k miles on them, still look and run great. (I own one.) While some people may cross shop with full size pickups, there are many people like myself that do not want or need a fullsize for backwoods travel, parking, etc.

I don’t disagree, however, that Tesla should target the F150 audience.


Savvy analysis, Andrew.

I’m anxiously waiting for the first fan-made renders of a Tesla pick-up to pop up on one of the various forums. A fan render of a Model S Ute already exists (by Theophilus Chin).

I saw a Syclone on the road the other day. Good times, good times.

VIA Motors has the right idea for an electrified truck. At the moment, though, it costs way too much. Their trucks are EREVs, so the Tesla badge wouldn’t work there.

I agree. An electric truck will be a tough sell to the coal rollers of the world, who buy the truck as a last bastion of their white male aggression and dominance, and who wield them like weapons.

Coal rollers are a minority. Most truck owners truck responsibly. It’s the 1% that screw it up for everybody. http://youtu.be/5SASDbkpqew

oh how I despise the coal rollers and bro truck guys. There is actually a used pickup place in my town the specializes in this submarket. All their trucks have massive lift kits, oversized comedy tires, dark tints, and aftermarket exhausts. I try not to let it bother me, but I’ve never met one of these drivers who is a considerate road user.

Exactly. People who buy a big pickup want to portray a macho image. An electric car company like Tesla is going to have a hard time penetrating that market, just like Toyota.

Like Toyota, Tesla can probably sell well in the compact pickup market. But I think both image and the limited energy capacity of battery packs will both work against Tesla succeeding in selling a large pickup, at least until battery tech advances rather more than it has in the past several years.

In fairness, many people buy pickups for other reasons. The problem is this new class of suburban cowboys – of every race, by the way – who have enough surplus credit (for now) to buy a vehicle based largely on emotional criteria. They used to buy Firebirds and Monte Carlos. Remember how many of those there used to be? But they work hand-in-hand with the buyers of frame & ladder SUVs that use the same platform, thus saving the Big 3 tons of development costs. That combo is damn near impossible to overcome. Tesla did the logical thing to peel off the SUV faction, because you can at least get some aerodynamics with a full-length roof. Getting at the truck buyers is so hard that they might just have to age their way through the system, and multiple bankruptcies, like an anchor passing through a python. You might take off another tiny sliver with an El Camino-like pickup, such as the unusually aerodynamic one Holden builds in Australia. But I think this is a generational culture thing; they have embraced fortress-like trucks as their norm. The next generation has very different priorities about motor vehicle ownership and these can still… Read more »

This brings up a good point. What are VIA motors monthly sales figures? I don’t recall seeing them on the monthly reports.

VIA has yet to be able to fund their product to make it publically available. To date, a handful of corporate/gov’t fleet vehicles have been delivered under the special ~50% DoE incentive program.

IEV sales list criteria to make the cut/report numbers is to A) be publically available, B) be highway road worthy and C) have an expectation to be able to potentially sell ~100 units in a year

Thx, I could never figure out why GM didn’t just buy them out and push out their own EV trucks. Maybe the DOE handout has something to do with it.

Just a sturdy little pick up. Think of all the tradesman out on the road everyday. Would they really need more than 100 mile range.

Wright Speed is working on the big stuff. Imagine a silent UPS truck!

You got that right. Still driving my 2000 Ford Ranger EV after 16 years. 1000 lb. payload, started out with a 65 mile range. Drove it daily to work (25 mile round trip) and drove the heck out of it for errands like moving stuff, remodeling the house, dump runs (took 1500 lbs of fallen eucalyptus tree a couple of years ago). Original NiMH battery pack, range down to 45 miles or so, but more than I need daily. No oil, gas, smog checks, etc. Hardly any maintenance. Got a J1772 adapter a couple of years ago. Closing in on 65,000 miles, so about 4,000 per year. They were made as fleet vehicles in 1998-2000, same as the S10 EV Trucks. Were mostly taken back during the “troubles’ but a bunch ended up in former leasee hands (like mine, for $1!)

It would need to create it’s own niche, because the Big 3 pickups are entrenched with a loyal following. And I have a hard time imagining Tesla creating the body on frame architecture they would demand any time soon. The road is paved with failures and near misses by far more established players. But Tesla has a knack for surprise and delight, so I certainly wouldn’t count them out.

Now the City car I want them to make for me? That may never happen, or be one of the last categories filled…

There is a company in Charlotte, NC called EV-Fleet that makes electric pick-up trucks but they are for commercial use only and they don’t sell to private individuals. http://ev-fleet.com/

Tesla would be better off looking at something like the Chevy Colorado or Ford Ranger instead of trying to compete with the full size, crew cab market. And hopefully something that looks better than the Condor sold by EV-Fleet or the Tesla version of a Chevy El Camino. Would love to see an electric pick-up truck but not going to hold my breath for one.

Now, all their priority is in selling Model ≡ because they have to satisfy 300,000 customers Worldwide.

Pickups are no priority.
In fact Tesla can just cut the rear section of Model-S & Model-X and sell them in pickup versions. Ideally they can put a plastic top and claim more interior space than other pickups.

I’ve read 90% of pickups are driven in the city, fancy wheels and rims, never used the load bed and just drive to work and back.

Even big pickup trucks are mostly for show.
An Electric would go great ,has more torque if it ever was used to work and many small companies would use it for deliveries etc.

Tesla will rock their market when it enters with the model P for pickup.

Tesla’s philosophy is to build not just a good EV, but a superior vehicle to their gas counterpart.

Limping into the Truck market isn’t an option for Tesla. If they are going to jump in, they need to take on the Ford F-150 head-on and beat it.

Anything short of that would be a failure.

Now if Ford wants to bring back something like the EV Ranger smaller truck, that would be an option they could do, but not Tesla. Ford could market them to fleet buyers and get away with a limited vehicle for limited use.

Agreed. As long as Musk is at the helm, the truck will wait until it can go head-to-head (and allowing a few years for the supercharger network to spread to increasingly remote recreational areas, like to National Parks and such.

scott franco (the evil EV owning republican)

I think it would be a success for business users like tradesmen and pool service outfits, etc.

It would not suit my particular mission, since I also use it for long distance travel hauling a camper. I have often gone hundreds of miles off major highways, let alone a charger

Once Tesla Has Cells that are good enough to meet Elon’s Spec for an Airplane – they might also be good enough for a Truck: He said 400 Wh/Kg would work for Flight, Currently best at ~ 270 Wh/Kg!

I Think – for a heavy Duty F-150 Competitor, he might need even higher energy densities to make Truck like that fly in the Market:
10,000 Lbs Base Towing, with Upgrades to 14,000 Lbs! Empty Driving Distance up to 450 miles, Minimum fully Loaded, Towing Max Weight, of 300 miles! With a Truck – it’s not so much about 155 Mph tops Speed, as it is about hard work and grunt, so maybe tops at 120 Mph and Better Torque at the wheels!

If they could pull a 4 Horse Trailer 300 miles on undulating hills, and 250 miles across the Great Divide – they would have something to show!

Coming to a Reveal near you – in 2020 – 2022!

You make some good points about batteries needing higher energy density for a full-size EV pickup, but I think you’re being overly optimistic if you think we’ll see that much improvement in battery tech within 4-6 years.

Of course, it’s always possible some genuine breaththrough tech improvement will soon go into production unannounced, but over the past 30 years or so all we’ve seen in battery tech is a slow and relatively steady improvement.

I keep hoping for that quantum jump in commercial battery tech, but so far — and despite a lot of breathless articles announcing laboratory demos of breakthru batteries — it hasn’t happened.

I use my truck to haul things, sure. But it’s main purpose is as an “adventure” truck, so range and rural refuel/recharge options are part of the mission. For daily trips my e-golf is almost perfect. Twice the range, more scoot and a higher top speed would be nice, but only a few really cold days have been an inconvenience so far. I’m having a hard time seeing a large, long range EV truck being a viable mainstream option before the mid 2030’s. Too expensive, and lacking the appropriate cachet at the moment.

F150 is the target. Anything less is an also-ran.

Most of the pickups in DFW are used as SUVs with an outdoor trunk. For commuting to their desk job. So:

300mi range
High seating position
7,000# towing
20″ wheels
6 seats, 4 doors
10″ ground clearance
4×8 plywood capacity with tailgate down
Optional bed lid.
Cool tiedown rails or other distinguishing feature

Why would F150 be the target? It’s not like Corolla or Camry were the target for the Model S.

True; however, that market doesn’t have the profit margins that Tesla needed, and they didn’t (and still don’t) have the production capacity to keep up with potential sales in that market, either.

Pickups, being popular, have pretty substantial profit margins, particularly with all these urban cowboys maxing out options, etc.

By the time the battery tech is ready, Tesla will have the mass production capability to compete in the F-150 segment.

At some point it will become glaringly obvious that producing something other than a small 4-door hatch back is a requirement to play in the BEV game. Sadly, it may take Tesla to provide this remedial lesson in marketing. Seems like everyone else is too afraid of stepping out side of the lines.
And don’t be small minded about what Tesla, or any other creative competitor, can produce when it comes to powerful pickup and medium duty industrial BEVs. Tesla is killing it in the high-end luxury market, are about to do the same in mid-size sedans, and they will annihilate the truck market.
The market is definitely there for those with the clarity of vision to see it.


being that I grew up with pickups as my first 4 vehicles, you will only convince pickup guys to buy a Tesla truck when it is as compelling for a muscle car guy to get a Tesla Model S P90DL or something like that. it will have to be over the top to get their attention, then do the model 3 concept where there will be a truck for everybody.

If Tesla sold a solid base model pickup with a useful package of features, like the towing package anti-sway features that the Model X package has, and all of the autopilot safety features standard, etc., then that would be something that even contractors would look into. The total cost of ownership is their bottom line, and as long as the price is reasonably competitive, that would be one way that the trucks would get into the mindset of macho truck world.

Even though I have a limited interest in hybrids, I think the presence of the engine will always have an irrational appeal to the suburban truck buyer – besides its rational advantage for professional truck users as a generator. The Big 3 survive off their truck programs, and they are much more friendly to hybrids. Most importantly, hybrids don’t live or die off their aerodynamics the way battery electrics do. Even I must concede that getting all those truck owners to halve their fuel consumption does us all more good than having hundreds of thousands of small car owners switch to pure battery power.

It does bug me that hybrids still rely on such conservative engines. But all sorts of car and truck buyers seem willing for engines to have fewer cylinders. So maybe we will see a really efficient 3-cylinder generator for an aluminum-bodied pickup for 40 mpg and likely staggering range. The professional buyers will demand it for cost savings, and their aura of manliness and toughness will be used ad nauseum in commercials to convert the herd.

Yes, my disappointment in GM, and the whole legacy auto industry in general, is that GM has let VIA Motors struggle to survive, GM has yet to scale the Voltec to other product lines, and nobody else has picked up on the serial hybrid tech for large vehicles, either.

My compact Tacoma is all the truck I need now, all truck guys are not alike, and I have had duallys with a lift gate. The VW Saverio is made in Brazil, it could have an e-golf drivetrain and would appeal to me. I’m in a leased Leaf now, even a trailer hitch and light utility trailer would replace the Tacoma for the times I need to haul brush or smelly stuff.

I think GM will show a plug-in electric pickup based on the Volt drivrtrain within the next year. GM knows how to do electric and they know how to do pickups of all sizes. I think an all electric pickup is a few years off until the battery technology/price is much better. Trucks are just too inefficient to be viable for all electric today.

VIA Motors had the key to the solution years ago – GM, instead of picking them up, they just sell them complete trucks, letting the company struggle to survive.

GM will do no such thing until regulations require them – they have the tech at their fingertips, between VIA and Voltec, but they refuse to even try.

I think that the day that Tesla *can* build a truck that costs $35k and has a range of 300 miles empty, will be the day that gas is over. And even then, the people who want to haul RVs aren’t going to think it’s enough.

However, you’re looking at a 300 kwh battery, so we all know that’s not happening anytime soon.

It needs to be an open top wagon 2 doors like a nomad

I think that if Tesla builds a Truck that is a serious vehicle… built like their cars, SOLID. If it has a moderately long 240 mile range while towing and various cab options… could be super.
My theory as to why the aforementioned Tundra failed is due to nationalism. This wouldn’t be a problem for a Californian vehicle if it was awesome. If it is a direct drive 4WD with more torque than most other trucks it could be a real game changer.

The Tacoma OWNS its segment. Nationalism no problem there. Truck market is irrational, and spooky for a startup that cannot afford a miss.