Love him or hate him, Elon Musk has captivated the public for quite some time now. Brands built on futuristic visions of tomorrow, his portfolio of work includes electric vehicles (EVs), spaceships, sealed-tube trains (Hyperloop), neurolink technology, donating millions of trees, and not one, but two blazin’ hot tracks in as many years. As such, it should come as no surprise that the newly revealed Cybertruck looks like it comes to us from far in the future. The pickup EV has been decidedly polarizing, with people seemingly either loving or hating it with no in-between feelings. But despite the dissension nearly everyone seems to agree that the design is bold, and like nothing else being currently offered by car manufacturers—which is exactly why the Cybertruck is poised to be a massive hit. Bottled water, iPods, sometimes the products that experience the most success are the ones that the public never knew they wanted until they saw it.
Specs and Style
As we enter into this new decade the retro-future aesthetic is very much in vogue, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Light bars, laser headlights, heads-up displays, “automated” driving modes, gesture control, and many more technologies that were the stuff of science-fiction some 30 years ago are now available in production vehicles. If anything, Tesla has released a vehicle with an exterior design that is equally as sci-fi as current available tech. And therein lies the wonder—the space where fashion meets function and speaks to something beyond itself—of a product that oddly feels just as much in tune with the zeitgeist as it does with our own conceptions of “the future”, no matter how vague. Brutalist-industrial seems almost the antithesis of the environmentally friendly EV pickup, and yet here we are, together. A dominating minimalistic design that combines the advanced technological integration we’ve come to expect with the unique look and feel one would assume of a vehicle dubbed Cybertruck.
To have this make sense, you cannot compare it to vehicles of the last 20 years. But compared to the cultural trends and designs of the last two decades? It might come to explain how and why the internet so effortlessly photoshopped and remixed the positively memetic Cybertruck. Apart from more obvious comparisons to Harrison Ford’s ride in the original Blade Runner, the Cybertruck effortlessly invokes Halo’s Warthogs while capturing the aesthetic energy of a Macbook.
Past and (Future-)Present
For a while now, similar futuristic designs have carved out a prominent niche in Western games and technology. In the world of automobiles, however, this type of hyper-futuristic design is much more rare. Historically speaking, we have the Lamborghini Countach and the DeLorean DMC12, with the likes of Volkswagen’s XL1 or the BMW i8 following in their wake. Being in-tune with prevailing macro-trends (the children call them vibes) might come to define Tesla’s most recent offering as “ahead of the curve” in terms of mainstream consumer, automotive demand. They certainly have a track record of this, given the out of nowhere success of the Model S.
Not surprisingly, pickup trucks are the most popular vehicle type in America. With the big three (Ford, GM, FCA) sticking with the classic pickup formula (gasoline or diesel engine, V8 option, body on frame, “classic” styling), the door has been left wide open for an electric pickup. Tesla, along with a company called Rivian, have seen this, and decided to electrify the pickup segment. Rivian is going with the “classic” pickup route, while Tesla has opted for something a little more grabbing. If you’ll recall, Apple had a similar move with the release of the original iPod. Instead of offering another mp3 player, they unveiled a sleek, futuristic looking device that had features none of its other competitors had. It met and exceeded expectations, but defined its own standards and execution, consequently allowing them to build their platform and ecosystem into the empire it is today. The Cybertruck claims to have all the same functionality as a conventional pickup, but with retro-future design and cutting edge technology. It appeals to those who didn’t even know they wanted a truck, those who wanted an EV truck all along, and those who simply want the most advanced car available. In a world where kids are dropping thousands on skins and knives in games like Counter-Strike and Fortnite, so that they can uniquely conform within the constraints of the system, same but different is exactly the right vibe for… well… everyone.
With an announced 250,000 pre-orders ($100 to pre-order), there is definitely an appetite for this wildly futuristic vehicle. Whether it be a fusion of style and technology, or that time Elon smoked dope with Joe Rogan, something about the Cybertruck is speaking to people. The galaxy-brains in California have helped define a number of industries over the last few decades, why not the car industry? With other pickup manufacturers having nothing to offer as competition, Tesla will be in the pickup EV market all by itself until challenged. Only time will tell if the Cybertruck will be a passing fad, or if it will solidify Tesla’s vision of the automobile as the benchmark for future cars.