Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk thinks producing pickup trucks and semis will help solidify the electric vehicle market, yet evidence shows truckers are unlikely to make the switch from gas powered-trucks to plug-in vehicles.
Musk’s “Master Plan, Part Deux,” which essentially lays out the future goals for Tesla, suggests that one of the best growth opportunities for the electric vehicle market is through the building of semis and pickup trucks.
It’s a nice idea, Business Insider’s technology editor Mathew DeBord said in an editorial Saturday, but, “it’s unclear whether anyone wants an all-electric bus, semi, or pickup. At least at the moment and for the foreseeable future.”
The demand for Tesla’s vehicles mostly comes from a very specific audience — people with discretionary money who want to piggy back on the coolness of the Tesla brand, DeBord explained.
“Increasingly, I think a lot of people want to be part of the Tesla experience, to join the brand. This is why buyers who might otherwise be shopping for Porsches and Ferraris go Tesla.”
The market for full-sized trucks and semi is a different matter all together, according to Debord. Those who buy such utilitarian vehicles are loyal only to their own brand. Convincing truckers to switch vehicles and brands, especially those powered on electricity alone, will be hard.
“The vast majority of pickup-truck buyers are located in the US, and they buy full-size trucks from Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles,” Debord noted. “They are insanely loyal and, frankly, aren’t thinking about why they need an electric version of a vehicle that in gas- or diesel-powered form is already completely satisfying.”
The first part of Musk’s master plan was implemented in 2006, which amounted to a promise to Tesla’s shareholders and customers that the company would produce high-end electric vehicles.
More troublesome perhaps is that a semi’s function is to haul huge loads of cargo hundreds of miles daily, so Tesla will have to make significant upgrades to its batteries, which already take an hour to get about 250 miles of range. The amount of resources, power, and energy needed to create a viable long-haul semi will be massive.
Tesla’s resources are stretched to the max as the company continues to struggle to meet deadlines for vehicles Musk envisioned during his first master plan, developed 10 years ago in 2005.
The results of the first master plan are a mixed bag, especially on the business end.
Even though it managed to help the company generate about $1.7 billion from selling its cars, and another $500 million from zero-emission vehicle credits, Musk’s master plan resulted in the company spending $2.1 billion on research and development, and another $4.1 billion in capital investment, leaving Tesla with a deep deficit.
Barclay analyst Brian Johnson argued in The Wall Street Journal in July that Musk’s 2006 “Master Plan Part” resulted in Tesla digging itself in a $4.2 billion hole. Johnson gave the plan’s business model a D grade.
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