Tesla’s Electric ‘Cybertruck’ Is Unveiled. It’s Pointy.


Elon Musk on Thursday unveiled the “Cybertruck,” an electric pickup truck that Tesla hopes will rival Ford’s best-selling F-150 line.

Its design ensured it would certainly stand out on the road. Looking little like traditional pickup trucks, the Cybertruck has a stainless steel exterior with a triangular roof.

But its introduction at an event in Los Angeles didn’t quite go as planned. During a demonstration of the truck’s toughness, its designer lobbed a metal ball at one of its windows, unexpectedly cracking it. He tried again on another window, which also cracked.

“Maybe that was a little too hard,” said Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive.

He gave the rest of the presentation with the cracked windows behind him.

Here are some key questions and takeaways about the rollout.

In fact, they are.

Ford has said it will release a hybrid F-150 next year, and the company is working on an all-electric version.

“With America’s best-selling truck for 42 years, we’ve always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do,” Ford said in a statement on Friday.

Mary Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, announced at an investor conference on Thursday that the company’s first battery electric pickup truck would go on sale in the fall of 2021.

“Electrification is the future,” a G.M. spokesman, Jim Cain, said on Friday. “Our commitment to it is massive, and we intend to help lead that push.”

“We’re investing more than $3 billion in a factory in Detroit to build an electric pickup,” he said, adding that the company was planning a “significant investment” in Ohio in a battery cell plant.

The start-up Rivian also introduced an electric pickup truck this year. Rivian is considered a potential rival to Tesla, and has gotten a $500 million investment from Ford, as well as backing from Amazon. Rivian’s truck and an electric sport utility vehicle are supposed to go into production next year.

The company unveiled three models: a single-motor rear-wheel drive for $39,900, a dual-motor all-wheel drive for $49,900 and a tri-motor all-wheel drive for $69,900.

The most expensive truck tows 14,000 pounds and can go up to 500 miles on a single charge, Tesla said. Mr. Musk said the truck had the acceleration of a Porsche.

“Trucks have been the same for a very long time,” he said. “Like a hundred years, trucks have been basically the same. We want to try something different.”

Orders were immediately available on the Tesla website. Production will begin in late 2021, Tesla said.

The demonstrations that led to the cracked windows were meant to prove that the trucks were “really tough, not fake tough,” according to Mr. Musk. Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, smacked the door with a sledgehammer, leaving no dent. Mr. Musk said the doors could withstand a bullet from a 9-millimeter handgun.

But when Mr. von Holzhausen lobbed a metal ball at the driver’s side window, it immediately cracked. Then when he tried again on the back seat window, it cracked, too.

In interviews before the unveiling, Mr. Musk acknowledged that the truck’s look wasn’t exactly conventional. On the “Ride the Lightning” podcast this month, he said the truck would look “pretty sci-fi” and “kind of like a ‘Blade Runner’ truck.”

“It’s not going to be for everyone,” he said, with characteristic bravado.

“When we unveil this thing, there will be some people who are like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like a truck; I don’t want to buy it,’” he said. “It’s like when they came out with automobiles, people were like, ‘Oh, I like a horse and carriage.’ Sure, O.K., you can stick with your horse and carriage, but you’re going to get an automobile later. You just don’t know it.”

Mr. Musk argues that electric vehicles will eventually replace traditional ones. And Americans love pickup trucks. But at least in the short term, some analysts are doubtful that traditional truck buyers would invest in early electric models.

Karl Brauer, the executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, predicted that the Tesla truck would appeal more to tech enthusiasts than to traditional truck buyers.

“Everything from its styling to its drivetrain will be a major departure from standard pickup trucks,” he said in a statement. “As a technology statement for tech-oriented professionals and fans, this truck’s departures from the norm will be seen as assets, not liabilities.”

Tesla has become one of the top producers of luxury cars in the United States, rivaling brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It is also among the leading companies developing self-driving cars, which have faced tough questions about safety. The company, founded in 2003, has never turned an annual profit.

The company sells two sedans and a sport utility vehicle, and has a hatchback coming to market next year. Tesla is also working on a two-seat roadster and a semi truck, both of which it publicly unveiled two years ago.

Mr. Musk is a brash Silicon Valley billionaire whose companies and public comments make headlines regularly. This week, for example, a federal judge rejected Mr. Musk’s attempt to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought against him by a British cave explorer whom Mr. Musk had accused of being a “pedo guy.”

Mr. Musk is also the chief executive of SpaceX, which launches rockets and spacecraft and has been hired to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA conducted a safety review of SpaceX last year after Mr. Musk smoked pot on the podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

Tesla and Mr. Musk had gone through a period of turmoil starting in August 2018, after Mr. Musk abruptly declared on Twitter that he hoped to take the publicly traded company private. The events kicked off furor in the markets and ignited a federal investigation. He was fined $20 million by securities regulators and agreed to relinquish the chairmanship of Tesla for three years.

But when he was asked by a Twitter follower about the cost of his tweet, Mr. Musk said it had been “worth it.” Mr. Musk subsequently announced that he was taking a break from Twitter for a few days, but he eventually returned to the platform.

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