HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Tesla unveiled a new electric pickup truck unlike anything else — ever.
The Cybertruck, as it is dubbed, drew screams and awe from a large crowd Thursday night when it emerged and drove on stage — a sharply angular pickup, peaking in the middle, that looks far more like a military vehicle than anything to haul the kids around on weekends.
If anything, it looks like a simplified stealth fighter.
As one might expect from those watching the debut in person or online, it drew its share of both applause and guffaws.
“The looks are polarizing, but the performance and pricing specs are undeniable,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader, in a statement. “There will be plenty of demand for the Cybertruck, even if only current Tesla fans want one.”
Cybertruck’s electric range is up to up to 500 miles between charges. That top-of-the-line beast, with three electric motors complete with 14,000 pounds of towing capacity, comes in at $69,900.
Despite being huge — more than 19-feet long — it’s designed to be quicker than many sports cars. CEO Elon Musk said that it will rocket from zero to 60 mph in a blazing 2.9 seconds, faster than a Porsche 911.
There’s also going to be a 250-mile range single-motor, entry-level starting at $39,900 and a 300-mile dual-motor mid-range version at $49,900.
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That would be less than the average pickup. The average selling price of a full-size, conventional pickup was $50,496 in October, according to Edmunds.com. September marked the first month in which the average transaction price of a pickup crossed $50,000.
It has a crew cab and a bed large enough in back for an ATV. There’s 100-cubic-feet of storage between the bed underneath the tonneau cover and other exterior compartments. The tailgate opens into a low position, with a pull-out panel, that allows it to turn into a ramp
The headlights and taillights are thin bars across the front and back.
The Cybertruck is due to start production in late 2021, Tesla says on its website where it is taking $100 refundable reservations for it.
Musk wanted something different: “Trucks have been the same for a long time,” he said, showing images of pickups on sale today. “It’s hard to tell which is which.”
Besides its radical design, the Cybertruck will be built differently than other pickups in other ways. Its “exoskeleton” will be made of high-grade stainless steel. Musk and his design director used a sledgehammer to try to make the point that it is tougher than standard steel doors on pickups. The demonstration of its high-strength glass didn’t go as well: The side window cracked when struck by a steel ball.
Several other electric pickups from different makers are in development. Together, they create an automotive segment that never existed before. The trucks promise utility, excellent towing ability due to their torque, long-range per electric charge and eco-friendliness.
Tesla’s, however, hopes to show its prowess off-road. It has 16 inches of ground clearance, with front and rear approaches that will allow it to climb steep embankments.
The truck was unveiled at an event at Tesla’s design studio next to the airport in Hawthorne, a Los Angeles suburb. In typical Tesla fashion, Musk held forth on a stage before a crowd of several hundred people.
The pickup will be an addition to a growing stable of Tesla electric vehicles. They include the Model S and Model 3 sedans and Model X electric luxury crossover. The Model Y crossover the next one due. Musk has also shown a Tesla electric semi-truck and hinted at a new electric sports car, a new generation of its original car, the Tesla Roadster.
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Musk could create an entirely new class of pickup truck buyer.
Pickup truck owners are notoriously brand loyal and new technology — electricity, in this case — and radical design could test the market. But there’s good news, too.
“The truck segment has the fewest number of models, leaving plenty of room for growth,” said Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell in a statement.