I’m Going To Chill Out On The Cybertruck, Because A Lot Has Changed Since 2019

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If you know me, you know that I’m probably one of the Cybertruck’s biggest critics. I’m not a hater, or the kind of person who thinks that the government should ban the truck, but I made my case back in 2019 for why I thought it was a bad move. But the industry has changed a lot since 2019, and the Cybertruck might actually be a decent truck for Tesla to be selling in 2024.

Why I Was Highly Skeptical

Before I can explain why I think the truck is the right move today, I need to explain why I didn’t think it was a good call for 2019. Here’s a snippet from that old article:

I know I’m not going to be popular among Tesla fans for this, but it needs to be said: there are some serious issues with Cybertruck that need addressed.

Don’t get me wrong here, though. I do think it’s kind of cool, in its own way. The specs are amazing, and for many people, it will make a great vehicle that does what they need it to do. It looks like it will have great potential for off-road driving, and having a matching ATV would be pretty cool. That is … for people who like its looks, at least.

Yes, the principal complaint we’ve been hearing about Cybertruck has been about its looks, but that criticism manages to just barely miss the real issue that’s going to hurt it: form factor.

I went on to say that looks don’t evolve in a vacuum. Many people try to come up with an innovative new thing when technology changes, only to find out that there were valid reasons that the old thing looked the way it did. I gave the example of some of the first consumer digital cameras, which attempted to depart from tradition because they didn’t rely on film like an old SLR did. For example the binocular-style Kodak DC-40:

What the movers and shakers of 1995 didn’t get was that the old SLR cameras were shaped like that for a reason. The ergonomics of the old-style camera had evolved over more than a century to fit the needs of the people who took pictures, and the need to use film was only a small part of that equation.

Trucks were much the same. While the design of a truck did have to factor in the placement of an internal combustion engine, a transmission, and other ICE-only things, trucks also evolved to serve the needs of a wide variety of buyers. For casual buyers who had started doing things like commuting in a pickup truck, there wasn’t much of a need to do things like tow, put on aftermarket truck beds, utility drawers, or use a slide-in camper. But, to make for better economies of scale, trucks had to be designed to meet as many needs as possible, from the commuter to the job site to the campground.

One big thing that helps meet a broad variety of needs is modularity (another thing SLR cameras do quite well). A standard truck bed serves many differing needs, but if it doesn’t fit yours, you can unbolt it and put a different one on. Or, the company can put a whole different body on the frame, making things like the Chevrolet Suburban on the same platform with most of the same parts.

The Cybertruck does basically none of that.

It has a strange bed that most truck accessories don’t work with. You can’t reach over the side and grab things the way you can with a normal truck. You can’t buy a normal slide-in truck camper and slide it into a Cybertruck. Also, using a fifth wheel could be a challenge (but one that could probably be overcome).

But that doesn’t mean I thought they shouldn’t have made it. I thought that the Cybertruck would have made a better third truck, alongside something like a Model 3 ute (like Simone Giertz’ Truckla) and a more traditional pickup. As the third in a “Tesla Truck Trio,” it would have been a compelling offering for people who didn’t need or want a traditional truck, while also offering Tesla a good chance to innovate while earning bread and butter from the other trucks.

The Chessboard Has Changed Drastically Since 2019

What I didn’t predict in 2019 was that it would take almost half a decade for the company to get to true mass production (assuming it gets to high volumes by the end of 2024). I also didn’t think that several other companies would beat Tesla to trucks. Now, instead of the lone Cybertruck representing the overall truck market, it’s rolling out to early buyers while F-150 Lightnings, Rivians, and Silverado EVs are already on the streets.

While the Rivian is a little different from most traditional trucks, you can’t get any more traditional than the F-150 Lightning. It’s externally the same as the gas F-150 in nearly every way. It’s basically the F-150 body on top of a different frame designed to hold batteries. The Silverado is a bit of a departure, but it’s also very similar externally to a popular truck that the company sold in 2002 (the Avalanche).

So, it’s really safe to say that the traditional truck market is now very well served. Not only are more traditional trucks available now, but they’re available from companies that traditional buyers are more likely to trust with a truck purchase. So, that market is really well served by everyone else now. This leaves the market for less traditional buyers open to the Cybertruck to continue to sell well to.

Tesla may have missed out on the opportunity to get a beachhead in the traditional truck market ahead of the competition, but it’s also become pretty clear since 2019 that Elon Musk really couldn’t care less about the traditional market. He’s willing to put everything on touchscreens, including control of vehicle direction, for example. So, that was never the company’s plan and probably won’t be until the guy dies.

They’re going to make heaps of cash serving the part of the market they want to serve while everyone else will serve people who aren’t interested in something that departs significantly from the norm. So, everyone’s going to be OK.

I still have no interest at all in getting a Cybertruck for myself, but for the “mission” and for the health of the EV market, things are good now.

All that having been said, more of you Cybertruck owners need to do what these guys did and take the truck out and do cool stuff with it so I can properly cheer you on, because I couldn’t care less how it performs in mall parking lots or for FSD, and don’t even try to talk to me about stonks! LOL

Featured image by Tesla.

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