Tesla, Inc. could throw another disruption into the U.S. automotive industry if the company gets into the truck business.
Chairman Elon Musk in a series of tweets Thursday said a Telsa semi-truck will debut in September. Following that, Tesla will unveil a pickup in 18 to 24 months, Musk said.
“Team has done an amazing job,” Musk said in the tweet. “Seriously next level.”
The addition of trucks to Tesla’s lineup would be a drastic change for the Silicon Valley company known for sleek, pricey electric cars and SUVs.
A Tesla representative would not offer details on future plans, and said the tweets would be the company’s only statement.
Musk’s announcements come a few days after Telsa briefly surpassed General Motors Co. as the most valuable auto company based on market capitalization — the number of outstanding shares multiplied by the stock price.
The series of tweets gave Tesla stock an afternoon boost, but GM remained the most valuable company at market close Thursday: GM’s market capitalization was $51.14 billion; Tesla’s was $48.41 billion.
The announcement is typical Musk fashion, according to Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for Autotrader.
“We are being teased but provided with few details on what the plan is and how it all be accomplished,” she said. “Of course, (trucks are) an attractive segment to Tesla since it is a highly profitable one — and Telsa needs profits.”
Krebs said questions abound.
“Is Tesla manufacturing trucks itself or partnering with someone?” she asked. “How is Tesla, burning through immense amounts of cash, funding this? Can it realistically add more to its plate?”
Tesla plans introduce the mid-market Model 3 electric sedan to its lineup later this year. The addition of trucks could boost the lineup, but Tesla does not currently have facilities to manufacture trucks or semi-tractors.
When Musk unveiled his “Master Plan, Part Duex” on the Tesla blog in July 2016, he said the market needs electric heavy-duty trucks and high-passenger urban transport vehicles.
“We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate,” he wrote then.
Tesla has said that by the end of next year it will build 500,000 new Model 3 compacts, expected to sell for around $40,000. Analysts have questioned whether Tesla will be able to meet those sales goals, as the company hasn’t yet made more than 100,000 vehicles in a year. The company has a history of delays and coming in under promised production.