Spoiler alert! The answer is YES design still matters. On Wednesday, November 20th Tesla unveiled its long-awaited electric pickup truck. The Cybertruck shocked everyone. It was the first time that I heard so many people use the word “ugly” in reference to a Tesla vehicle. It was my reaction too.
For the record, I have never had any interest in a pickup truck. I’ve never wanted one ever. I still don’t. I’ve driven pickup trucks owned by family and friends when I needed to move stuff, but that’s about it. I would borrow theirs and return it. I wouldn’t think twice about it afterward.
Knowing that Tesla was going to unveil their new electric pickup was only a little interesting to me. I was only interested to see what it would look like. The unveiling was to start at 8 PM PT/11 PM ET. By 11 PM I was already in bed and falling asleep. However, I was awake enough to see the less than one-minute countdown before it started. I waited and just as I suspected it didn’t start on time. I dozed off. When I woke up and looked at my phone again the NEW Cybertruck was on stage. My immediate reaction was OMG WTF? (not in a good way). I turned my phone off and rolled over to go back to sleep. This thing looked awful and I wasn’t going to waste any more time watching.
Sidenote: The unveiling was kind of a disaster?
Tesla makes amazing products and Elon Musk is a genius. However, when it comes to unveilings and product rollouts it’s like they are an unprepared startup company. This one was no different. It started late and the moment that Elon wanted to show the unbreakable glass was embarrassing because the glass did break. Being a presenter I could feel his pain. He had to stand in front of this NEW Cybertruck with two broken windows while he delivered the rest of his presentation. You could tell that he was frustrated and simply wanted it to be over.
I slept on it
When I woke up the next morning I went to tesla.com/cybertruck to look at the pictures, specs, and price. Although I still wasn’t crazy about the design the one thing I realized was that Tesla had forever changed the way we would look at pickup trucks. After I read the specs and pricing (starting at $39,900), I said to myself “this thing is going to sell like crazy!”
How would something so ugly sell like crazy? “It doesn’t look like anything else.” — Elon Musk
The main thing we have to remember is that pickup trucks have looked the same pretty much since day one. It’s a car with a rectangle on the back. Not a whole lot of design going on there. Sure they’ve gotten stronger and more powerful and sure they have some nice curves here and there as well as more comfortable interiors, but the design of the pickup truck really hasn’t changed much at all. When we all heard that Tesla was making a pickup truck in our minds we pictured what that truck might look like and while there have been several fan renderings, they have all had one thing in common: a car with a rectangle on the back. Some simply mashed up a Model S front with an existing pickup truck back. If you want to talk design, that’s the laziest approach you can take. When the Cybertruck rolled out we were shocked mostly because it didn’t look like the pickup truck that we imagined. It was so different that our heads exploded in many cases. “This is a joke right?” “Where’s the real truck?”
Like it or not, it was a bold move
Elon did something that we didn’t expect. He didn’t just electrify the design we’ve known for years. He built something new. It’s human nature to resist change. Where are the curves? We expect cars/pickup trucks to be curvy. This thing is just straight lines. That also makes it hard to wrap our heads around. It’s ugly. There’s no excuse for this. Make it different. Come up with a better design. etc. etc. I have heard it all, but what 90% of that really translates to, is give us the truck we pictured. Elon: Sorry. No.
If you just can’t get past this design, no worries as there will be plenty of “traditional” pickup trucks to chose from. Ford, Rvian, and GM will undoubtedly stick to safety in the status quo. However, after just a few days of getting used to the look of the Cybertruck, everything else simply feels OLD and DATED.
The Cybertruck is not your father’s F150
Like it, or not the Cybertruck has forever changed the way we will think of pickup trucks. It will likely be that the industry now follows this new design rather than sticking to their existing looks. Time will tell.
It’s already a success
Elon tweeted that there were over 146K orders (each paying a $100 refundable deposit) in the first two days. This is with no paid advertising or paid endorsements. Another 46 thousand orders came in on the third day. Since the deposit is fully refundable there will be people that change their minds. There will be people that don’t actually go through with it when it delivers in 2021. However, one point is for certain and that is if it was so “ugly” then why would people put down $100 at all? You wouldn’t order something you hated. Design matters and from what I can tell is that sometimes a design that is so radically different actually makes it attractive. Most ordered the mid-range and high-end models. Only 17% ordered the lowest cost one.
This lesson has taught me that design matters, but even if the design is not stellar or what people expected it, it will still sell if the specs and price are there to make it hard to pass up. I remember when Apple introduced the AirPods and I thought these look “weird”, yet you see them in people’s ears everywhere you look. We could argue that had it been a more attractive design then there might have been even more pre-orders and that’s a valid argument. However, if everyone was chomping at the bit to get an electric truck then why did it take traditional truck makers so long to even announce that they were working on theirs (most won’t be available before 2021). You’d think they’d move faster to meet that demand. I don’t believe that most traditional pickup truck owners are demanding that their trucks be made in an electric version. I believe that because the Cybertruck is so different it’s making people want it that may not have even wanted a truck before last week. If I were in the market for a pickup truck it would be hard for me not to order this one. It’s ugly and badass at the same time.
You can see the Cybertruck specs and pricing here.
If you’re interested in buying/leasing a Tesla you can get FREE Supercharging with my referral code here.