Divide and conquer, Tesla’s electric Cybertruck breaks into ute-market

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Tesla’s long-teased all-electric ute has finally been unveiled. A great many promptly asked for the veil to be immediately replaced, but just as many seem to have taken to the vehicle like a cat to a cardboard box. As in politics, polarisation is the order of the day, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has reported that over 200,000 orders for the Cybertruck have already been received. 

Tesla calls its electric ute a Cybertruck, probably because UTE would’ve quickly become an acronym for – Ugly Truck Elon. The vehicle looks like something David Hasselhoff would drive, and not just the Knight Rider era Hasselhoff, but the drunkenly eating cheeseburgers on the floor Hasselhoff too. Of course, whether the vehicle is ugly or not is a subjective opinion, and perhaps that is the genius of the Cybertruck for Tesla, it polarises opinion, and if politics in recent years has taught us anything, it’s that polarisation sells. 

The Cybertruck blew up the Internet with divided opinion fuelling endless debate and criticism. Many are smitten with the Cybertruck’s design, commending Tesla for thinking outside the box, and they’re right. After all, Tesla had to be outside the box in order to base their design off it.

The boxy Cybertruck is about as angular as a four-sided triangle, and just as incomprehensible. Evidently, Tesla is seeking to market to the kind of men who buy utility vehicles without the need of utility; if beauty begins where utility ends it is hard to imagine something uglier than utility for its own sake. Musk is obviously aware that angles have been abused in modern design and architecture as a way of seeming modern without having to go to the effort of developing style or originality. Of course, there is nothing ugly about angles per se, only that when something is too angular it loses all its supple humanity. Curves make the world go round. 

However, Tesla is really quite cunning in its design. After all, the kind of man who might compensate for perceived shortcomings by rolling around urban centres in petrol-guzzling, hummer-style, angular vehicles best suited to military campaigns in North Africa, might just be fooled by the Cybertruck into servicing their ego in emissionless electric silence. 

The jarring nature of the Cybertruck is its greatest strength, having established its greatest strength certainly isn’t its windows. We have to remember that in the U.S., the pickup truck is king and therefore, mostly male-dominated. The pickup truck market also has strong brand loyalty, similar to the brand loyalty war in Australia between Holden and Ford. In Musk’s introduction he spoke of how pickup trucks have looked the same throughout history, demonstrating that this is an established market, settled, so it is probably a smart move by Tesla to produce something unsettling.  

Unsettling is probably the apposite term to describe the unveiling too. To demonstrate the impenetrability of the Cybertruck’s stainless steel exoskeleton, Musk showed video of a 9mm bullet fired from a handgun failing to penetrate the vehicle’s door. The ability to stop a speeding bullet may have provided Musk with a momentary Superman complex, though this hubris was quickly punished when a test designed to demonstrate the Cybertruck’s unbreakable glass windows served only to demonstrate the precise opposite. 

Musk attempted to smooth over the embarrassing live demonstration by noting that the metal ball which had been pegged at the window had not actually gone through the window, though that didn’t stop the thought going through all our heads: Did they really not try that beforehand? Musk, now speaking in front of a backdrop of blighted glass, tried to move on, noting, “Room for improvement.” 

Tesla Cybertruck window test fail

The Cybertruck has three range options, 250+ miles, 300+ miles and 500 + miles. However, probably the biggest reaction from Tesla’s serried supporters in attendance, aside from the electric ATV that was driven up an internally stored ramp and onto the ute’s tray to be charged, was the unveiling of the price, US$39,900. 

In a later surprise, Musk revealed on Twitter that as an optional extra the retractable tray cover can be made into a solar panel. In a tweet, Musk said the panel could generate “15 miles per day, possibly more. Adding fold-out solar wings would generate 30 to 40 miles per day. Average miles per day in US is 30.” 

The truck seats six and the angular dashboard seems to be made of quarried marble taken from Musk’s kitchen. Carrying something like that must require a lot of energy, after all, 800km of range is considerable, however, Tesla has not yet revealed the battery technology at the heart of the vehicle. 

The approximate Australian prices of the three Cybertruck models, including GST and Luxury Car Tax for the most expensive of the three, are: 

· AUD $64,500 (Range: 400km, Tow: 3.4 tonnes, 0-100km/h: 6.4 seconds)

· AUD $79,300 (Range: 480km, Tow: 4.54 tonnes, 0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds)

· AUD $121,300 (Range: 800km, Tow: 6.36 tonnes, 0-100km/h: 2.6 seconds)

However, it will be sometime before the Cybertruck is seen on Australian roads as the EV won’t even be available for purchase to American consumers until late 2022, though pre-orders can be placed now.