Cybertruck Turnaround tells us a Boatload about Tesla, Elon Musk and the Future
More than 200k in pre-orders and Future buyers posting Proof Online as a Badge of Honor
The Cybertruck unveiling at the SpaceX adjacent Tesla Design Center on November 21st was one for the the ages. The initial reaction by the throngs of invited press (invitations were required and very hard to come by for the ultra-anticipated event) was to run with the obvious: smash proof window failure and wild twitter responses to the extreme throw-back-style design.
Elon Musk even pre-revealed what the general look the truck would be before the event, as if he was concerned that people needed a preview to reduce the shock of seeing the radical concept without a prior hint of what was to come.
And then, within 24 hours of the unveiling, literally 100s of online media outlets pumped out articles, perhaps with a ratio of two or three to one ridiculing the design, or the issues with the on-stage window demonstration vs. the minority actually digging deeper into the truck itself and how it might actually fare in the real world. One outlet even speculated that the whole concept was 100% fake and that there was no chance that any truck, at least not similar to this one, would ever be produced.
In the run-up to the epic unveiling, Musk hinted that the truck would possibly be influenced by the “Blade Runner” aesthetic and cyberpunk ethos and might be like “an armored personnel carrier from the future”. And how spot on those hints turned out to be!
Once the pre-orders started to flood in, something changed, big time.
Within 72 hours Elon had tweeted milestones for the $100 fully refundable pre-orders. First that approximately 160k and then more than 200k orders had been taken. Not quite at the level of the Model 3 pre-orders, and at a much lower cost (Model 3 was a $1000 deposit) but, for an unveiling that was considered by the press, generally, to be a failure and even worthy of mocking and derision, this was an abrupt, if not surprising turn-around.
Not surprising because this type of press-vs-the public behavior is commonplace in all areas of commerce and entertainment. Just last summer, Disney’s Lion King was almost universally panned by critics, then went on, predictably, to be one of the biggest financial successes in movie history. Cybertruck is unlikely to be that extreme as it bounces back from the initial negativity coming from the press, but what the bounce back says about Tesla, climate change and the future is an even more fascinating story, to observe and speculate on, than that cute and cuddly digital cat.
Tesla’s Support and Status as a Hero in the Fight against the Fossil Fuel Industrial Complex and ICE automakers runs deep and strong
The speculation on why Elon Musk chose to design and offer this vehicle at this time has obviously run rampant. There are many theories, most of them pretty silly, and, short of a detailed announcement from the man himself, there can be no definitive statement.
However, now that the pre-orders are proving to be robust and the company’s stock has rebounded (probably unrelated but, that’s another story), the possibility of a “crazy like a fox” story behind it all begins to make more sense.
One interesting development is the tweets of the deposit receipts as a badge of honor among the faithful. This could just be folks who love everything about the truck and it’s radical design and features.
It could also, however, be something larger in play. Once the truck concept vs. the EV concept is taken into account the process of observing social and commercial trends in this case becomes very interesting.
Factoid 1: Incidents involving Tesla charging stations being blocked and vandalized have generally been perpetrated by strange rogue Pick-up truck owners and there has been an exaggerated hate and pride in driving a gas guzzling anti-Tesla. It’s bizarre to think that Tesla in this case could be creating a kind of counter force to these oddly “pro-gasoline” wackos who seems to see Tesla as some sort of flashpoint for their retro-oil-fetish. And, the Cybertruck is bulletproof (!?).
Factoid 2: While it has been well documented that Tesla stands virtually alone against the power structure of the entire world in its crusade to rid the world of ICE vehicles ASAP, the degree to which the general public has a strong desire and motive to support the company and its products, above and beyond a love for the products themselves or its leader, is as yet an unknown quantity.
In the press at large (many who are beholden to the ICE power structure) Tesla is often seen as just another carmaker selling wares, while customers may have a deeper connection as they search for ways to support solutions to the climate crisis as individuals. This could be a major and growing force in the days and months ahead, and can be a powerful resource to help to keep Tesla afloat even when Elon Musk decides to tackle challenging and even outlandish ventures.
Factoid 3: Perhaps more fantasy based than fact supported, the connection between the climate crisis as a motivation to buy and EV truck may go even deeper and wider than just the battery power. As a virtual disaster survival vehicle with various features that would be potentially life saving in a post-catastrophe situation – such as being employed as a bug-out vehicle to escape a flooded urban area. Various features seem to be conceived in response to a potential dystopian fantasy, but could be extremely valuable in a real emergency. The almost tank like durability, the shatterproof windows (as long as a sledgehammer doesn’t hit the door first), the battery powered cooking facilities in the camping-mode version, even the optional ATV come to mind.
“an armored personnel carrier from the future.”– Elon Musk
Taking this thought experiment to its furthest possible conclusion its not hard to imagine a future (the Cybertruck could be on streets by perhaps 2021-2022) where the factions who support ICE trucks and the anti-fossil fuel “warriors”, each become radicalized and clash in some crazy mad max survival contest on US highways.
A more Optimistic stroke of Genius could also have played a role
Another very interesting possibility is that Elon Musk, known for being a master playing in marketing ventures, as well as being dedicated to sharing the EV market gladly with “competitors”, who he sees more as partners, once they take up the mantel of helping to accelerate the global transition to sustainable energy transportation.
It is no coincidence that GM, Ford, and many others have announced EV truck projects and details in the wake of the Cybertruck unveiling. It is a given that they will be watching very closely as Tesla ventures in to the traditional automakers most lucrative market segment.
“Trucks have been the same for a very long time like 100 years, we wanted to try something different,”– Elon musk
For Musk and Tesla, however, it is clearly a win-win if you understand the higher purpose and motivation that infuses all activities within the company and yet is often misunderstood by others.
If the Cybertruck does not command a large market share and somehow ends up like the DeLorean that it resembles, it will have, nevertheless, been a huge success in forcing the hand of the legacy automakers toward offering more EV options asap.
The legacy ICE carmakers cannot afford to wait while hoping that Tesla will fail. That phase of the battle over sustainable vs fossil-fuel transportation is over. Tesla is a force to be reckoned with and the Cybertruck, along with its on-going army of supporters who’ve ponied up C-notes, are making themselves seen and heard and stand as a warning that it’s not only the climate that’s changing on this planet.
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