“Our Mars Jacket has a 3D-printed vomit pocket with a bright orange sick bag,” company cofounder Steve Tidball stated earlier this year. “You might call it provocative, but for us, it isn’t—it’s experimental.” Vollebak is a niche brand, however, and marketing a postapocalyptic future as somehow desirable is far from mainstream.
Where Are the Copycats?
Perhaps the number of design copycats will be the best test of whether Musk is on to something and that he’ll confound his critics and make billions from his head-turning pickup. But in the four years since its launch, not a single automaker has made a Cybertruck clone.
They could all be wrong, of course, and, once again, Musk will laugh all the way to the bank, but Tesla’s disruptive genius was all about the drivetrain, not the silhouette.
Now Tesla needs an injection of newness. Its current four-vehicle offering is long in the tooth. The Model Y crossover is three years old, while the Model 3 sedan dates back to 2017, which is dangerously antediluvian in the car world.
“Right now, the EV to own is a [Porsche] Taycan or a Mercedes EQS. 100 percent,” automotive consultant Eric Noble of the CARLAB told Forbes. “There’s no cachet in a Tesla among the wealthy.”
S&P Global Mobility has reported on Tesla’s shrinking dominance in the US EV market. “Given that consumer choice and consumer interest in EVs are growing, Tesla’s ability to retain a dominant market share will be challenged going forward,” S&P’s report concluded.
“Musk is a polarizing figure with many fans, but a growing number of people are disillusioned with him,” says AutoPacific’s Kim.
“Some liberals, who had been a lot of the early adopters of Tesla cars, have sworn not to buy another,” says UCLA Anderson’s Sorenson. “Interestingly, however, his appeal to conservatives—not the usual buyers of EVs—has grown. That might actually help sales of the Cybertruck, since conservatives more frequently buy pickups and SUVs.”
“Conservatives are not buying gas-powered vehicles just to irritate liberals,” stresses Boston University’s Simcoe. “All kinds of people buy these vehicles because they are useful, and as electric trucks—including Cybertruck—start providing better performance at competitive prices, we will see adoption among all demographics.”
Dialing Down Eco Attitude
Before becoming CEO, Musk introduced his vision for Tesla in a 2006 manifesto: clean the air, starting with pricey premium models and later shifting to affordable family cars. Seventeen years later, that affordable family car is still to appear—it’s believed to be imminent, but then Tesla’s pie-crust promises always are—and the Cybertruck is now the company’s flagship. Gone are the references to environmental benefits.
“Progressives and environmentalists are unlikely to be lining up for the Cybertruck,” states Gartner’s Ramsey. “On top of its gargantuan size and weight, it is not all that useful as a truck. This is a status symbol and attention getter.”