LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

There one vehicle I can’t wait to get my hands on in 2020: the Tesla Cybertruck.

Although production officially starts in 2021, I should have a crack at it, at least in prototype mode, by the end of the year.

Depending on your angle, the Cybertruck is a design disaster made from cheap metal sheets pounded together into a four-wheel ice pick stuck right in your eye, or it’s a slick marketing scheme that earns Tesla Inc. millions of dollars by way of each $100 deposit required to reserve one. The truck won’t see the light of day, this point of view goes — it’s just the latest promise from a company with a history of sporadic delivery on promises.

I disagree on both points. Tesla founder Elon Musk has tweeted that he’s taken more than 200,000 deposits for the Cybertruck. At $100 each, that’s $20 million — plenty of cash, but not enough to significantly alter a company that is valued at almost $78 billion, third in the industry behind only Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp.

Musk doesn’t need a scheme to make a quick buck; he’s never been short of brand faithful the world over who buy his products as quickly as he can make them. More important, if you know anything about Musk, you know he believes what he says, even if the result doesn’t always happen on schedule, whether it’s the first Tesla Roadsters, the hyperloop rapid transit system or colonizing Mars.

And, the Cybertruck is exciting! That’s not so common in today’s auto market. In 2019 we saw so many bulbous SUVs, appliance-shaped sedans and out-of-reach supercars that, even for me, they started to blur together.

This enthusiasm is also coming from outside the usual auto ranks. I have lifelong New York friends placing deposits on it.

The Cybertruck comes by way of its jarring looks honestly. It feels like a descendant of the wedge cars from the 1960s and 1970s — the flatbed version of the Lotus Esprit, BMW M1, Lancia Stratos, Ferrari PF Modulo, DeLorean and Lamborghini Countach. Those design icons transcended the car world and became pop culture. They dominated fashion editorials and were immortalized in Hollywood blockbusters. When it finally hits the road, the Cybertruck should do the same.

On a broader scale, the success or failure of Tesla’s first electric pickup will indicate the future of the truck industry as a whole.

Here’s why: Trucks and SUVs make up almost 70% of all auto sales in the U.S.

Light-truck sales in general in the U.S. rose 7.7% in 2018, to a record 11.98 million units sold, according to the Automotive News Data Center. For the past 35 years, the bestselling vehicle in the U.S. has been the Ford F-Series pickup. It’s outsold Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and even the ubiquitous, Uber-friendly Toyota Prius.

Further, the evolution of the truck has followed the evolution of the American consumer. As an increasing number of Americans bought trucks for more than just farming and ranch work, trucks became more luxurious and expensive. Now you can buy a rolling-office quad cab, with leather heated seats and an entertainment system befitting a town car. It will cost you mid-six figures. Soon you’ll even be able to buy a hybrid F-150.

We have a few brands testing this unchartered terrain: Rivian will debut its $69,000-or-so R1T in late 2020, and Bollinger’s $125,000 B2 will be out in 2021. But if it comes to pass, the Cybertruck can be the first to tell us plenty. I can’t wait.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/mobility/2019/12/29/tesla-cybertruck-first-drive/40895479/