Maybe Tesla Should Have Entered the Truck Market First

Maybe Tesla Should Have Entered the Truck Market First

YTD sales numbers (July 2016) in the USA show that of the 10,162,270 vehicle sales to date, more than 10.4% of sales have been pickup trucks. Further, the top 3 vehicles, by sales volume, are all pickup trucks.

deeageux | 13/08/2016

Batteries are not good enough yet for a compelling electric truck.

And the situation was worse in 2012.

And people would not be willing to pay $80k-$160k for a pickup truck.

But we are really close now.

David N | 13/08/2016

I think a lot of people are shocked when they here about the shear numbers when it comes to truck sales. I know I was. Trucks used to be used for, well, a purpose, hauling dirt, gravel, mulch, tools, stuff needed for the job, hauling travel trailers and fifth wheels. Not anymore. In addition to mentioned purposes, now people have trucks for, well, just to have it. It's almost a new type of status symbol. They wouldn't even dream about putting a ton of #57 gravel in their truck bed.
I don't understand it, doesn't make sense to me. But hey, this is the new wave of truck buyers. Fully loaded, leather, sun roofs, the whole shabang.
So as demand has increased, truck makers are making what people want. It's a whole new market.
Your thoughts?

bmalloy0 | 13/08/2016

I think that TSMS P1 was the right way to go. There's no way that they'd have been able to produce a compelling pickup truck back when they were struggling to produce $100k Roadsters. The cost would be astronimical, the range would be pitiful, and Tesla would have flopped. Fast forward to the Model S, and still the truck's price would have been too prohibitive for it to reach the market it would have needed.

Maybe you could argue the Model X could have been a pickup, but even then, it would have been/would be a tight ship. Once the M3 is out and the Gigafactory is at capacity, and Freemont is at capacity, and GF2+ are being built, that's when we'll see a competitive pickup from Tesla (unless another major brand has a Gigafactory running first pumping them out, then Tesla may forego it, but I doubt anyone will have caught up that much by then)

carlk | 13/08/2016

That's what Toyota and other Japanese car makers thought too. Just take a look at the top three on the list. They have been the top three forever. The truck market is very hard to crack. Tesla needs to establish itself in those more natural markets before going after the truck market. Elon still has to do a lot of magic for etruck to be accepted in that market.

codyb12889 | 13/08/2016

The issue with trucks is the variety of reasons that people buy trucks.

Vanity - sure these people might be willing to go BEV.

Hauling - when introduced with huge variances in the weight being hauled BEVs are going to have range difficulties. Even an empty box trailer would hurt range through wind resistance, loading it up with more weight than the vehicle itself would drastically reduce range.

Work Trucks - Convincing someone that beats up their vehicle on work sites with tools and supplies to spend $80k ++ is going to be a tough sell.

Figuring out which of these subgroups to target becomes a big gamble and leaves you with a smaller overall market than what you get in the sedan or sports car markets.

fgaliegue | 13/08/2016

I disagree for a very good reason: US is maybe the only country where trucks have a market. Worldwide, truck sales are poor.

The sedan was a good choice.

Red Sage ca us | 13/08/2016

Heh. After joining VIA Motors, Bob Lutz stated that instead of releasing the Chevrolet VOLT, General Motors should have released an extended range electric pickup truck instead. They could have done it, if they wanted. I think they didn't want to then, and still don't want to do it now. But with the fuel economy of pickup trucks due to be counted against CAFE numbers going forward, they may well have to do so. We'll see.

But no... Tesla Motors should not have started with a pickup truck first. Ford and General Motors are companies that can conceivably build on the order of 10,000,000 vehicles per year. They have the sheer volume of manufacturing to crank out hundreds of thousands of pickup trucks for the US market. Chrysler has recently given up on the car market and will be discontinuing their Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 vehicles soon. They will be concentrating their manufacturing efforts on pickup trucks and minivans going forward, along with gas guzzling HEMI powered coupes and sedans.

Tesla Motors needed the Gigafactory to be built just to reach 500,000 units per year worldwide of ONE CAR. To be a viable competitor to existing full sized pickup truck manufacturers, they would need to be able to provide at least 300,000 units per year. They might not be able to get by with a battery pack capacity under 140 kWh, and probably should have no less than 170 kWh to start. So they would need an even bigger Gigafactory, just to supply the battery packs for the pickup trucks alone. That would take a lot of money, and there is no way even Elon Musk would have been able to convince enough people to do supply then needed funds by the time the Tesla Roadster was released.

For traditional automobile manufacturers, the simplest thing to do is continue building ICE pickup trucks. Next is to have smaller, turbocharged motors, lighter vehicles. Next, they will move to hybrids. From there to plug-in hybrids. Each step is meant to delay the transition to fully electric vehicles -- because they don't want to do that at all. For them, it is all about preserving profit margin on ancient technology as long as they possibly can. But to compete with them on price point would be very, very hard with an electric vehicle. Especially so in 2008. The passage of time makes it easier though.

brando | 13/08/2016

"The chicken tax is a 25% tariff on potato starch, dextrin, brandy, and light trucks imposed in 1963 by the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken."


I won't bother to explain, you can all read details for your selves.


So the truck market in the USofA is unique. Very profitable for US companies, not so much for importers.

kaffine | 13/08/2016

I think they will be better off building a semi truck before the pickup. Prove that a BEV can tow and haul as a semi truck then make the pickup truck. Semi trucks are low production and high price. Truck companies are already looking for other options as with the smog equipment on newer diesel engines are causing problems and fuel is expensive.

brando | 13/08/2016

Side note: check out current owners of Big Rig truck builders
Mack Trucks
Peterbilt, Kenworth, DAF (check out who owns Paccar)

And Scania ownership gets really comlex, interesting history of events

dansplans | 13/08/2016

There is an electric semi supposed to go on sale in Sept. Built in USA I think. If it is the real deal, I would expect Tesla to leave it alone to see if they can be successful.

fgaliegue | 14/08/2016

@dansplans are you talking about the Nikola 1?

dansplans | 14/08/2016

Yes that's the one.

fgaliegue | 14/08/2016

@dansplans well, it's not a "pure" EV in the sense that it has a gas turbine to replenish its battery pack... Which I believe is not the road Tesla wants to take. Still, I believe it's a good idea, since this said turbine can "consume" anything hydrocarbon, including biofuels. Still, no mechanical link between said turbine and the drivetrain, which remains 100% electric.

A very sensible approach, imho... And I am sure that Tesla is aware of that offer. And they still announced the availability of their offer.

I am genuinely curious about how this will pan out.

Ross1 | 14/08/2016

Here in AUS we have small trucks (utes, utilities) outselling most cars. Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Ford.
However safety is an issue.

I live near a roundabout and after rain there are often single vehicle accidents, skid in the wet and off the road. ALWAYS a light truck/ute.

fgaliegue | 14/08/2016

@Ross indeed, I had forgotten about Australia. As to the accident rate, I am really not surprised. By its very design, a light truck handles far worse than a "regular" car: much higher center of gravity, much higher mass therefore much higher inertia.

People, get a grip. It is basic physics you learn in high schools. The heavier the car, the more difficult it is to get it moving the way you want. The higher the center of mass, the more wallowy the vehicle is. Newton's first law (and its applications) teaches you all of that. And if you want to carry a lot of stuff around, there exist much more sensible solutions.


This apart, so called "light trucks" are close to nonexistent in Europe. In fact, if you take all of Europe, you have more Teslas on the road than such vehicles. When mass is needed to be hauled around, we use Euroboxes (Citroën Jumper, Renault Express, etc etc). Meh, different culture.

Ross1 | 14/08/2016

Jumper, Kangou and Outback are all named after Australian icons.
Just saying.

I think / know the cause of the ute accidents is an unbalanced vehicle where the tail end loses traction far too quickly and unexpectedly.
Unless you grew up driving on farms you wouldn't expect it.
I was there to help a very distressed young mum once, typically the slide came from nowhere.

dansplans | 14/08/2016

Light trucks and station wagons have little weight in the rear half. A little too much speed and a bit of rain are all it takes for an inexperienced driver to find out what happens.

brando | 14/08/2016

Reminder of another turbine powered generator and electric drive truck product.
Ian Wright, one of the Tesla Motors Founders,



We all would expect Tesla Motors to make the safest trucks ever built.
Why would we expect less?

brando | 15/08/2016

Recent history. Have a look at Jay Leno and Bob Lutz introduce Via Motors July 2012.


Via Motors hopes to build 50,000 trucks in 2018 (about 5 years after introduction, right?)
I haven't found any actual sales numbers.

Any know of any Via Motors sales of their Volt like trucks?



Earl and Nagin ... | 17/08/2016

I test drove a Via Truck once. At some point, I heard they had a pre-order sale to PG&E. I haven't heard anything recently though. I wish them luck but their price point is understandably quite high compared with commodity pickup trucks.
I know they have had a positive impact though, even for Tesla. Apparently, one of their teams, driving through Nebraska give the owner of the Comfort Inn in Gothenburg, Nebraska the realization that EVs are the future. She then purchased a Sun Country Highway CS-100 J-1772 charging station for her hotel and the new Nebraska Barn and Grill restaurant across the street. Rumor has it that Tesla is now building a Supercharger there to help fill the I-80 gap through Nebraska.

fgaliegue | 17/08/2016

This thread is again, to my EU states, too US oriented.

And this is a real problem. SUVs, so called "light" trucks: whether ICE or electric, the fact remains that this kind of vehicle is not only ill fitted to most people's _real_ needs, they also waste energy in whatever form.

To my eyes, the Model X was born only from market demand, not people's _actual needs_. Bah. At least, it helps Tesla sell more, so I won't complain, but if only people bought vehicles which they actually _needed_, CO2 emissions in the US alone would probably be 20% less country-wise than what they are currently. And I don't believe this is an exaggeration at all.

Yes, I hate the Model X... Because it is a SUV. A light truck? Hah! Why not make a station wagon from the S instead? It's not as the S lacked interior space to begin with...

Sorry for the rant. It just had to get out at this point. But please, campaign against SUVs and "light trucks"; they just have no rationale to be even _born_ at all.

Earl and Nagin ... | 17/08/2016

While I understand your perspective, I don't agree with it. A light truck/SUV has great utility (hauling, offroad, etc). Of course, to me the Model X is neither but rather is a station wagon (which also has great utility.
The only downside to these utility vehicles in my opinion, has been their traditional consumption of oil and all of the pollution they cause. This is one of the reasons I like EVs as I can, sustainably drive a useful and comfortable vehicle such as a pickup. We no longer need to try to milk our world's supply of oil for as long as possible. I will be able to simply add more solar panels on my house to get the improved utility of a truck instead of what I do today where I drive my Leaf on a daily basis (its ok on reasonable graded dirt roads but during or after bad weather its a bit risky) but often wish I had my truck.
I also admit my life is a lot more varied than most people including most drivers of light trucks - and my Leaf and truck have the scratches to prove it.
Of course, its nice to also have the Roadster when I have to dress up fancy :-)

dansplans | 17/08/2016

@fgaliegue I doubt things will change much since the majority of Tesla buyers are from the US. M3 rollout will be largely to US destinations to begin with as well.

European tastes and sensibilities have been different from Americans for a long time. Europeans have been paying a lot for fuel for many years, so have transitioned to smaller, fuel efficient vehicles much faster. Every time the price of fuel goes down, the sales of pickups and SUV's increases somewhat in the US. Many Americans view cheap gasoline as a "right". Many Europeans are quite willing to pay for the privilege of a more enlightened society, through higher taxes. EG Paid leaves and much more paid vacation time and national holidays.

Now can you explain the Citroën and many Renault and Peugeot for that matter.

brando | 18/08/2016

Automobile culture is emotional and not very logical, right?

Design your life without a car and you'll save how much per year?

I look forward to anyone actually computing auto ownership cost, including insurance, parking, fuel, maintenance, tires, include miles per year.

AAA claims $6,500 to $12,500 per year.

Much depends on your cash flow, right?

fgaliegue | 19/08/2016

@dansplans when it comes to French manufacturers, unfortunately their EV offers are subpar for the most part; I am thinking in particular about the Peugeot Ion and its Citroën counterpart (which I forgot the name of; it just tells how forgettable they are).

To summarize, both Citroën and Peugeot offerings liken to Mitsubishi's iMiev: overpriced, clunky, underperforming box on wheels. Ultimately forgettable. There is also the Citroën E-Mehari, but it is a limited purpose offering which is overpriced fot what it can achieve.

Renault has better offerings: both the Zoe and Twizy. But both have flaws...

The Zoe is quite cheap, in fact; unfortunately the battery is leased; that is, you pay a monthly rent for the batteries and this lease depends on your projected use of the car (the more distance you cover the more you pay); this doesn't sit well in my book: it means that Renault does not fully trust its battery pack. This is all the more incomprehensible that Renault means Renault-Nissan, and the Leaf, even though 50% more expensive, doesn't require that you pay a monthly rent.

The Twizy is a fun, urban runabout vehicle, and it is rather cheap (~$20k); yes, it can be viewed as a toy, but Renault have made all the necessary engineering efforts to make this a viable toy, even in the event of an accident (Renault is known to make vehicles with excellent passive safety records).

All in all, the current offerings from French manufacturers are really not quite there; Nissan's Leaf and BMW's i3 are the most compelling offerings for all-around vehicles currently. And for hauling, you have Nissan's eurovan EV offering as well (I can't recall its name at the moment -- eNV 200 or something).