Presented last November 21st, Tesla's Cybertruck has attracted the wrath of war. It must be said that taking inspiration from the film "Blade Runner", taking place in November 2019 but released in 1982, its design has not left indifferent fans of the brand, and the general public in general.
Some found it "horrible", "too pushy", or "revolutionary", as we could read on Twitter. But one thing is certain, Elon Musk and his teams did not do things randomly. Behind the madness of the brand Tesla, the surprise of the Cybertruck would find very strategic explanations in its design.
A physical explanation of the design of the Cybertruck
For this first line of reflection, we must go back a little bit, and rely on another pickup, launched at the end of 2004. In a very relevant article of Tech Crunch, an unlikely comparison was made with the first-generation Honda Ridgeline. Its common point with the new Cybertruck: a monohull design, far from insignificant on the electric pickup Tesla.
The choice was not trivial, to prefer this type of architecture rather than the traditional frame body, distinguishing the cabin part of the dump. To be able to have the best way its electric batteries, Tesla has opted for the first alternative, because it allows to have more space and to be less crowded by the chassis.
But unfortunately, this choice causes a difficulty of development. Today, pickups are more limited by their chassis than their engine, about increasing their towing capabilities. There is, indeed, a proportional increase of the stresses on the chassis, which endures a force causing the structure to twist. The conventional solution is to strengthen the chassis, but the reasoning is different with a monocoque architecture. Tesla had to operate differently.
If it is not the chassis that can be reinforced, then it will have to be the body itself, and the vertical supports. This reinforcement mainly passes through the windscreen pillars, but also on each side of the rear window. If we look at the Cybertruck, we can see that these are indeed preponderant parts. You see where we want to go …
This difficulty is that experienced by the Honda Ridgeline, but also all models of another segment: the SUV. By experiencing the same forces on their structure, the solution is always the same: strengthen the body of the car. And with the increase in performance that an electric motor mounted on a pickup (see our article on the duel between the Cybertruck and Ford F-150), the challenge is even more important. Thus, the style of the new model of Tesla could be explained by a constraint, rather than the result of the madness of Elon Musk.
A marketing explanation, the design of the Cybertruck
Let's change the point of view now, and let's go from a marketing and commercial standpoint. That's good, Elon Musk is a communications professional, and looking to enter the pickup market is perhaps one of the most difficult exercises when you're at the head of a car brand.
Everything starts from an observation. 89% of the pickup customer is male today. But more relevant still, it is currently noticed that the domination of the Ford pickup is explained by a very particular selling psychology: the drivers of the model change every 5 to 10 years, renewing their copy with another, the generation above. More than a fidelity, a habit. And it pays: the F-150 is the best selling pickup in the United States, but also in first position any segment category.
As a result, the challenge for Tesla was great: to change a well-established habit for most of the segment's customers, with the difficulty of offering a vehicle with alternative technology that is still almost non-existent on the market: the electric motor. Brand image could also be a constraint: Tesla has no experience in the segment, and its cars are all the more appreciated by their technological advances that they are not known by their functional and practical capabilities.
This brings us back to the Cybertruck style. Finally, Elon Musk may not have had the choice: he had to reinvent a category of vehicle, at the risk of shocking. In the end, the next electric pickup Tesla can actually be seen as a UFO, but a UFO that will tomorrow to excel in a segment he himself invented. In the Cybertruck, the sensation of being in a pickup is not felt: 6 places are also available, while the size of the model is not significantly different from that of the F-150, in terms of dimensions.
To conclude, allow me a more personal reflection. Having made the habit of covering new cars for several years, I do not remember having, one day, had so much surprise and misunderstanding to see the veil rise on a car. In the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California, a rather awkward tension had won the public. On stage, Elon Musk was not very energetic either. As if immersed in a feeling of timidity, the spirits were all equal, to see for one of the first time the car market transform itself. Whether we like it or not, whether or not it's a commercial success story, it was certainly one of the first times that the changes in tomorrow's mobility were felt elsewhere than in technologies. A feeling of "Blade Runner", which will deserve to deepen the reflections.