Tesla’s engaging CEO Elon Musk recently sent the automotive world into a frenzy when he suggested they were working on bringing to market in the next 5 years, an electric-powered pickup that would compete with the F-150. Is this really a good idea?
The suggestion by Musk appeared in a CNN Money article which quoted him as saying:
“If you’re trying to replace the most gasoline miles driven, you have to look at what people are buying,” he said after an appearance at a Business Insider conference. “That’s the best selling car in America. If people are voting that’s their car, then that’s the car we have to deliver.”
That statement created many, many automotive articles calling foul on the notion that Tesla could build such a vehicle. A full-size truck is a different animal than a sedan, many argued. It is much larger, heavier and has to be durable enough to withstand many different purposes. Critics point to the Tesla fires and claim that if the battery back can’t withstand that damage, how could it hold up when offroading?
While those are great points, an electric powered full-size truck isn’t entirely a new idea. VIA motors has been working on one for years and is close to bringing one to market for fleet customers. The idea is that fleet customers have low range requirements, can utilize the battery pack in the field to use their power tools and don’t tow/haul a lot of weight. These fleet customers could see a dramatic drop in fuel costs quicker than an average consumer with the higher initial price of an electric truck.
If Tesla is truly interested in making a viable competitor to the F-150, they should look at fleet sales first. While it is true that the F-150 is the top selling vehicle in the US, there is no distinction between consumer and fleet customers (Ford sells a lot of trucks to fleet customers). By focusing one building a model for fleets, Tesla would have less demands on durability (these customers don’t drive their trucks in the Baja) and they could get around the problems with range anxiety. They would also directly compete with the F-150 in an area where it has dominated for years.
The truth is that Tesla has been looking into this for quite a while. There has been a Toyota Tundra, Tesla powered test truck spotted and it is feasible to think that other manufactures have a similar vehicle in their test fleets. It could be just a matter of time until Tesla puts one into production.
This type of product makes a lot of sense for Tesla. They would be able to increase their product offerings, diversify their portfolio and create new excitement around the company.
Yet, for a company that seems to always be struggling, does developing a low-profit fleet truck make any sense. In that view, no it does not.
What do you think of Tesla’s plans to build an F-150 competitor? Good idea or poor decision?
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