A recent article in truck trend caught my attention, one that addressed that Tesla motors are in the concept phase of creating a pickup truck. The information in the article is more broad strokes instead of detailed specifications at this point. GMC, Dodge, and Ford have long been able to ride most economic uncertainty with their popular truck product lines; however, Tesla could change how these companies think.
Electric Truck Competition
It was only a matter of time until there was an OEM electric truck to compete with the big three American truck companies. I do not see the first version of the Tesla Model U being in direct competition with the popular 1/4 ton trucks like the 1500 or F150; however, it will likely be more of a proof of concept and building platform such as Tesla’s first car, the Roadster. The idea of an electric truck may take a little time for the typical truck owners to get used to, again just like the Tesla Roadster.
If the model U ends up with similar specifications, like the Toyota Tacoma or the discontinued Ford Ranger, there would be a noticeable market shift. Both light trucks have their raving fans and sold very well in North America, and taking a small portion of this market could just be the jumping off point to larger pickup trucks.
This should be an unnerving wake-up call to the truck industry who have really been fighting amongst themselves over small differences. I have not heard any news of any other truck company researching an electric fleet. I am not suggesting that all truck owners will automatically go over to the Tesla truck when it hits the market.
It is risky to venture into a new market that may or may not be welcoming, and the truck industry is full of die hard fans that will fight for their brand like it is their first born child. The biggest advantage that truck companies have is the decades of market research on their customers. They each have spent a lot of money and effort to keep existing customers and try to sway the undecided.
Truck Commercial Strategies
Once truck company advertisements start to downgrade the Model U, this would officially signal that the electric truck is a serious threat; however, I do not see this happening for quite some time. Typically each truck company does not include a competitor until they have a similar truck of their own to compare it against. It would be a mistake for GM, Dodge, or Ford to even mention the Model U just like they do not mention the Toyota Tacoma, or Nissan Frontier. It is a different enough of a crowd that they are aiming at, and they do not have a similar light truck to compete.
Trucks have been ingrained in rural and even sub-urban life for over 50 years. There has been a decline in the number of light trucks available on the North American market in the last decade which left the door open for the Toyota Tacoma. With this light truck gap still open in the market, it may not be as risky of a venture if executed well. After a few years on the truck market, I forecast that the Model U, or a predecessor, will be at equal market share with the Toyota Tacoma. The time of only gasoline and diesel fuel large pickup trucks will be numbered, and this may even be the end of the “big 3” as they each rely heavily on their truck dominance.
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