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Tesla wants your input as it begins designing its first pickup

By Ronan Glon

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Tesla has its work cut out for the coming years. It’s still working on meeting demand for the Model 3, it’s developing a crossover named Model Y, it’s bringing its first semi truck to the market, and it has started working on the next-generation Roadster. Phew. The firm likes keeping busy, so it’s also in the early stages of designing a pickup truck. Company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk recently took to Twitter to get feedback on what form the truck should take, and announce when we might see a prototype.

“What would you love to see in a Tesla pickup? I have a few things in mind, but what do you think are small but important nuances, and what would be seriously next level?” Musk asked in June 2018. He confirmed a set of early, basic specifications. The yet-unnamed model will be roughly the same size as hot-selling pickups like the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado. It will come standard with dual-motor all-wheel drive, a crazy amount of torque, and a self-leveling suspension. It will also be able to park itself and boast 360-degree cameras. Finally, it will have a 240-volt outlet to run power tools miles away from the power grid.

As for the rest, it sounds like nothing is off the table. Twitter users collectively experienced a spurt of creativity as they gave Musk feedback. Some asked for individual torque control on each wheel, a system which would help off-road capacity. Others, likely speaking from experience, pointed out it needs physical buttons because touch screens are difficult to use with work gloves on. One user even requested amphibious capability. Time will tell which of these suggestions will make it to the final design.

Musk has said in the past that he’s had the truck’s core design and engineering elements in his mind for almost five years and he’s dying to build it. The competition is heating up, Michigan-based startup Rivian turned every head during the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show with a rugged, battery-electric pickup called R1T, so Tesla could shift its truck project into high gear. In December 2018, Musk wrote on Twitter that Tesla might show the model in prototype form in 2019.

That time frame suggests the production model won’t arrive until 2020 at the earliest. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to it. Unwavering brand loyalty runs as strong among truck owners as it does among Tesla drivers, so getting a Silverado owner to walk away from Chevrolet could take an immense amount of persuasion.

What’s next?

We could see a second truck from Tesla. The company briefly flashed a sketch (shown above) depicting a mammoth of an EV during the semi unveiling it held in November 2017. The photo shows a model that’s bigger than the Ford F-150 — much bigger. In fact, it’s hauling an F-150 in its cargo bed. Sketches are often misleading, but this model looks like it picks up where the immense International XT left off, a positioning that suggests it won’t compete in the same segment as the popular models built by Detroit’s big three. Tesla CEO Elon Musk described the concept as “a pickup truck that can carry a pickup truck.”

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“We created a pickup truck version of the Tesla semi. It’s a pickup truck that can carry a pickup truck. By the way, you will actually be able to drive that with a normal driver’s license,” Musk said during the presentation. His comments suggest the concept isn’t merely a wild design study sketched to gather applause during the event. It’s real. It’s too early to say when we’ll see it, though.

Similarly, your guess is as good as ours when it comes to what’s under the sheet metal. The yet-unnamed truck bears more than a passing resemblance to the aforementioned semi truck, but there’s no confirmation the two share any components. International doesn’t make the XT anymore, so the production model will compete in a class of one when it hits the market. We’ll have to be patient to find out more specific details such as range, performance, and price.

Updated on December 11, 2018: Added Elon Musk’s prototype announcement.

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