Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the battery-carmaker is moving forward on plans to bring a pickup truck to market – though he said it will have to wait until the launch of a new compact electric SUV to be called the Model Y.
Musk has been hinting about a pickup for some time, and said in a series of tweets that he is “dying to build it.” The basic design has been something the South African-born entrepreneur said he’s been working on for almost five years.
A rendering of a possible pickup was revealed in mid-November during Tesla’s preview of its planned Semi truck and Roadster models. When asked earlier this year how the Tesla pickup might compare with the Ford F-150 Musk said it would be of “similar total size.”
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Getting into the pickup segment could be an important move for Tesla considering the trucks account for anywhere from one in eight to one in seven new vehicles sold in the U.S. each year. And they are among the market’s most profitable offerings, especially as conventional pickup producers, such as Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, continue to push more and more upmarket.
But pickup buyers are also some of the most loyal in the U.S. and even after nearly two decades trying to crack the full-size market import brands Toyota and Nissan barely rank as asterisks on the sales charts.
The question is whether there will be a market for a green pickup. Manufacturers are convinced there’ll be a surge in demand for electrified sedans, coupes and SUVs over the next decade and will be flooding the market with new alternatives. Several are working up hybrid pickups, but Musk envisions an all-electric model expected to borrow at least some of its components from the new Tesla Semi.
While there is a sizable market for “personal use” pickups, most buyers still demand significant towing and cargo capabilities, and range is another factor that Tesla would have to deliver on if it hopes to make any headway with the pickup it is developing.
It will have a bit more time to work out the bugs, however. Before it reaches market, Musk noted, Tesla will launch a new SUV. And like the new Model 3 sedan, the Model Y ute is expected to target a relatively mainstream price segment, likely to start in the low to mid-$40,000 range, according to industry observers.
Pricing on a battery pickup would likely be significantly higher, than Musk has so far given no indication what range Tesla is targeting.
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Musk’s rush to reveal future Tesla products appears to be resonating with the brand’s fans, as well as investors. While TSLA shares are well off from the 52-week high of $389.61, shares closed at $317.29 on Tuesday, up more than 50% from their low point over the last year.
Not everyone is so upbeat, however. A number of analysts continue to voice concerns, especially in light of Tesla’s ongoing struggles to build the new Model 3. A much slower than anticipated launch led to much higher than expected third-quarter losses and forecasts aren’t much more upbeat for the October-December quarter.
Production is still reported to be dragging at less than 10% of Tesla’s original estimate, raising serious questions about whether it can come close to the 500,000 total production target it had set for 2018. Some reports have suggested that Chevrolet and Nissan are starting to receive orders for their own long-range models from customers who have decided not to wait any longer for the Model 3 sedans they had reserved.
“There’s bound to be growing scepticism if waiting lists and waiting times grow longer while yet another new model is unveiled.” Paul Newton, an analyst at the IHS Automotive, told the BBC.
Goldman Sachs is one of the bears on Tesla stock, critics fearing that if the carmaker can’t get a grip on its Model 3 production problems it will soon run short on cash and have to go back to the market for a new equity infusion.
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