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Revenge of the Nerds: Musk having fun with pickup design
Tom Quimby | November 20, 2017

Elon Musk is an interesting guy. Never a dull moment. And he likes to laugh—keep that in mind.

Have you ever looked at who he follows on Twitter?

It’s not many. Though he’s got 15.1 million followers, he only follows 47. The cartoons “South Park” and “Rick and Morty” are among those that have earned his coveted click. (As of Thursday night, he was still following the “Charlie Rose Show,” but that might be changing soon in light of allegations of sexual harassment levied against the veteran journalist today.)

When Musk showed a conceptual drawing of a huge Tesla pickup last week during the reveal of his electric semi, many questioned the truck’s authenticity and cartoonish-like size. After all, one image shows a full-size truck resting in its bed, obviously dwarfed by the mammoth size of the all-electric pickup.

“Tesla is serious about this truck thing. Or maybe it’s joking,” Fox News Automotive Editor Gary Gastelu wrote.

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If you’ve ever gone to SEMA, then you know it’s the bigger pickups that generally attract more attention. Admittedly, they’re fascinating engineering feats that look like they could roll over anything that gets in their way. Fuel efficiency doesn’t matter much in this realm—as does power and aesthetics.

While the Tesla pickup doesn’t look so hot—to quote my teen daughter, “Oh my gosh. That’s ugly”—it does have the potential to offer much more power than any of its competitors.

All electric torque is just hard to beat. You can’t argue with physics. It may not look or sound as good, but if it’s yanking stumps, it’s yanking stumps. (For fun, check out YouTube for Tesla drag races.)

So, here’s where Musk humor plugs in. He can afford to design a pickup to look as ugly as sin. It can look like a satirical rendering of a giant, electric yard truck buzzing around on the set of Teletubbies. It doesn’t matter.

Musk can thumb his nose at competitors who’ve designed the best-selling vehicles in automotive history and produce an ugly pickup that will out-perform them all—save, possibly, for range. That might be an issue. Might. (This sort of reminds me of Farm Truck in a weird, Starbucks infused, SciFi kind-of-way.)

Musk said he can squeeze 500 miles on a single charge out of his semi. While he may not get that out of a Class 6 pickup, getting 300 to 400 miles would still be impressive.

Among consumers, Tesla’s got enough devotees out there who would gleefully line up to buy a large, zero-emissions stump puller that can quietly blow the doors off their neighbor’s diesel truck and get a nice incentive from Uncle Sam in the process.

Right now, it’s more about function than form for Musk. You may recall that he was thrilled to point out how his narrow-nosed semi has a better drag co-efficient than a Bugatti Chiron. And of course, the front end of his pickup resembles the semi.

Trucks are designed “like barn walls,” Musk said.

Not his, though. And in fleets where every pound and aerodynamic feature can save fuel, coupled with a nice drop in maintenance costs, ugly can start looking pretty good.

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