Elon Musk has suggested two alternative versions of the Tesla Cybertruck, the all-electric pickup truck with a striking design due for launch in late 2021.
Over the past three days, the Tesla CEO has made reference to ideas for different designs for the Cybertruck. One proposal is focused on offering a more conventional truck design, while another is focused on offering a smaller version of the vehicle to better suit the smaller roads of markets like Europe. While the first idea outlined Sunday appears to be intended as more of a backup plan if the first Cybertruck fails, Musk claimed on Twitter Tuesday that the second idea is "highly likely down the road."
The suggestions show how Musk is thinking about the Cybertruck's unique design, first unveiled in November 2019. A pickup truck appeared in Tesla's second master plan in July 2016, as part of a three-phase plan to reach the mass market. This plan also covered the Model 3 sedan released in July 2017 and the Model Y SUV released in March 2020.
But while these two vehicles wouldn't look out of place in a conventional car lineup, Musk has taken a notably different approach with this third vehicle. Musk described it in November 2018 as "heart-stopping" and went as far as to say "I actually don’t know if a lot of people will buy this pickup truck or not, but I don’t care." The truck has been compared to something out of sci-fi classic Blade Runner.
Here's what we know about Musk's alternative ideas:
Conventional truck – In an interview with Automotive News shared Sunday, Musk suggested that the company would build a regular truck if the Cybertruck proves a commercial failure.
"It can be a better sports car than a Porsche 911, a better truck than an F- 150, and it's armored and looks sort of kick-ass from the future. That was the goal, recognizing this could be a complete failure. But I wasn't super worried about that because if it turns out nobody wants to buy a weird-looking truck, we'll build a normal truck, no problem. There's lots of normal trucks out there that look pretty much the same; you can hardly tell the difference. And sure, we could just do some copycat truck; that's easy. So that's our fallback strategy."
The pressure is on to capture some of the pickup truck market, as the Ford F-series has ranked as the United States' best-selling vehicle for the past 42 years.
Smaller truck – Musk suggested via his Twitter page Tuesday that a smaller version of the truck is "highly likely down the road." At the truck's unveiling, the provided specifications said the truck measured 79.8 inches wide, 75 inches tall and 231.7 inches long. That's not an outlandish size for a pickup truck, but it could be a challenge for smaller roads. In follow-up posts, Musk suggested that reducing width was more important than reducing length for overcoming these issues.
It's not the first time Musk has made reference to a smaller version. In May 2020, he wrote on Twitter that "we’ll probably do a smaller, tight world truck at some point."
The truck was unveiled at the Tesla Design Studio, complete with its angular shape. Musk later claimed the vehicle's body, made from cold-rolled 30X steel, is so tough that Tesla couldn't shape it as they would with a conventional car. In a sector that includes conventional designs like the Ford F-150, the Cybertruck made a strong first impression.
The Cybertruck is set to hit roads in late 2021, at which point it may become clearer whether the gamble has paid off.