Tesla to Unveil Plans for an Electric Pickup Truck

Tesla is set to unveil plans for its first pickup truck on Thursday night in Los Angeles, in a splashy play by the electric car company to rival Ford’s best-selling F-150 line.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, has called the model “the Cybertruck,” and said that it would have “crazy torque.” But it’s unclear when the model, which would be Tesla’s fifth, might come to market. Here’s what we know so far.

In tweets and public appearances, Mr. Musk has raised expectations about the truck’s performance and features. He has said that it would be able to go 400 miles on a single charge and have the same acceleration as a Porsche, with greater towing capabilities than the trucks currently on the market. It’s expected to cost about $50,000, in line with the leading full-size trucks being sold today.

On the “Ride the Lightning” podcast this month, Mr. Musk said the truck would look “pretty sci-fi” and “kind of like a Blade Runner truck.”

“It’s not going to be for everyone,” he said, with characteristic bravado.

“When we unveil this thing, there will be some people who are like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like a truck; I don’t want to buy it,’” he said. “It’s like when they came out with automobiles, people were like, ‘Oh, I like a horse and carriage.’ Sure, O.K., you can stick with your horse and carriage, but you’re going to get an automobile later. You just don’t know it.”

In fact, they are.

General Motors announced on Thursday that its first battery electric pickup truck would go on sale in the fall of 2021. Ford Motor has said it will release a hybrid F-150 next year, and the company is working on an all-electric version. (In a demonstration in July, an F-150 electric prototype successfully towed more than 1.25 million pounds of rail cars and trucks for a short distance during a capability test.)

The start-up Rivian also introduced an electric pickup truck this year. Rivian is considered a potential rival to Tesla, and has gotten a $500 million investment from Ford, as well as backing from Amazon. Rivian’s truck and an electric sport utility vehicle are supposed to go into production next year.

Mr. Musk argues that electric vehicles will eventually replace traditional ones. And Americans love pickup trucks. But at least in the short term, some analysts are doubtful that traditional truck buyers would invest in early electric models.

Karl Brauer, the executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, predicted that the Tesla truck would appeal more to tech enthusiasts than to traditional truck buyers.

“Everything from its styling to its drivetrain will be a major departure from standard pickup trucks,” he said in a statement. “As a technology statement for tech-oriented professionals and fans, this truck’s departures from the norm will be seen as assets, not liabilities.”

The company sells two sedans and a sport utility vehicle, and has a hatchback coming to market next year. Tesla is also working on a two-seat roadster and a semi truck, both of which it publicly unveiled two years ago.

Tesla has become one of the top producers of luxury cars in the United States, rivaling brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It is also among the leading companies developing self-driving cars, which have faced tough questions about safety. The company, founded in 2003, has never turned an annual profit.

Mr. Musk is a brash Silicon Valley billionaire whose companies and public comments make headlines regularly. This week, for example, a federal judge rejected Mr. Musk’s attempt to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought against him by a British cave explorer whom Mr. Musk had accused of being a “pedo guy.”

Mr. Musk is also the chief executive of SpaceX, which launches rockets and spacecraft and has been hired to fly astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA conducted a safety review of SpaceX last year after Mr. Musk smoked pot on the podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

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transcript

Elon Musk’s Highs and Lows: PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to fundamentally change the way we live. But his path to success has been characterized by both great accomplishments and flirtations with failure.

“I thought about what are the problems that are most likely to affect the future of the world or future of humanity.” Elon Musk, a South African-born engineer, inventor and billionaire, is one of the most important entrepreneurs in the world. But the 47-year-old is no stranger to turmoil, and by his own account his career has been full of highs and lows. “Just three years ago, I was showering at the Y and sleeping on the office floor. And now, I have got a million-dollar car and quite a few creature comforts.” After making a fortune with his first successful startup, Zip2, Musk gained fame as the co-founder of PayPal in the late 1990s. “So this is an ATM. What we’re going to do is transform the traditional banking industry.” The company lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and Musk was ousted as CEO because of internal turmoil. But when PayPal went public in 2002, and then was sold to eBay, Musk — as the biggest shareholder — walked away with $200 million. By the mid-2000s, Musk had turned around and invested almost all of his PayPal fortune into his new companies: SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. With SpaceX, Musk’s aspiration is out of this world — literally. It’s a commercial space flight company, which designs and launches advanced rockets into space. “Behind me is where Falcon 9 would sit during launch.” One of its ambitions is to eventually send people to Mars. “And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.” But it has faced some roadblocks. Their first three rocket launches — failed, burning through almost all of the company’s assets. But SpaceX has had recent successes. The Falcon Heavy launch earlier this year was a big milestone and it carried an interesting payload: a dummy astronaut riding a Tesla car that was orbiting space. The company has also landed contracts with NASA, but questions about safety and cost remain. “We sold over 1,000 cars — and by sold I mean people put down a substantial deposit on the car.” Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, is one of the first of its kind to work on a large scale. It has also successfully disrupted the auto industry. The company is valued at over $50 billion. The Tesla Model S has been called the greatest car ever built. But Tesla has also faced some setbacks, including car batteries that caught on fire, recalls and production delays. SolarCity, Musk’s renewable energy venture, initially had a bright future. It’s the largest provider of rooftop solar systems in the U.S., and the company boomed on Wall Street. But after investors raised doubts about its business model, SolarCity’s shares quickly lost value, and Tesla had to take over in what was widely seen as a bailout. “We really need to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become.” But while Musk may have been flirting with bankruptcy and calamity for years, his projects continue to captivate the collective imagination. “Life has to be more than about solving problems. There have to be things that make you proud to be a member of humanity.”

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Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to fundamentally change the way we live. But his path to success has been characterized by both great accomplishments and flirtations with failure.CreditCredit…Todd Anderson for The New York Times

Tesla and Mr. Musk had gone through a period of turmoil starting in August 2018, after Mr. Musk abruptly declared on Twitter that he hoped to take the publicly traded company private. The events kicked off furor in the markets and ignited a federal investigation. He was fined $20 million by securities regulators and agreed to relinquish the chairmanship of Tesla for three years.

But when he was asked by a Twitter follower about the cost of his tweet, Mr. Musk said it had been “worth it.” Mr. Musk subsequently announced that he was taking a break from Twitter for a few days, but he eventually returned to the platform.

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