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Tesla Unveils Long-Awaited Electric-Powered Pickup, Breaks Window

CEO Elon Musk unveiled the "cybertruck" Thursday evening. A demonstration of the truck's shatterproof glass by its chief engineer failed when the window shattered.

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk took to the stage late Thursday to reprise a familiar role: pitching a future vehicle to a throng of adoring fans. This time, it’s the “Cybertruck” -- Musk’s name for Tesla’s new electric pickup truck.

The futuristic vehicle starts at $39,900 and will come in three variants, Musk told an audience in Hawthorne, California, on Thursday. The truck can already be ordered with a deposit of $100, though production “nears in late 2021,” Tesla said on its website.

After a “Blade Runner”-inspired introduction, Musk had Tesla’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen, smash the truck’s steel exterior with a sledgehammer. A demonstration of shatterproof glass didn’t go as well, with a metallic ball thrown at the vehicle breaking two of its side windows.

“You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough,” Musk said. “A truck you can take a sledgehammer to that doesn’t dent.”

Traditional truck buyers are a tougher audience and less likely to be impressed by Silicon Valley sizzle.

”It misses the core truck buyer,” said analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures. “A contractor is not going to show up to a work site in this truck. That said, Tesla will still sell some of them.”

The lucrative full-size pickup market in the U.S. is dominated by the Detroit 3: Ford Motor Co.’s F-150, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Ram 1500 and General Motors Co.’s Chevy Silverado. Japanese automakers have spent two decades and billions of dollars to get in on the gravy train, but U.S. brands still control almost 92% of the half-ton segment, according to IHS Markit.

Musk has talked for years about joining the fray; earlier Thursday, he retweeted one of his own tweets from July 31, 2012.

Tesla shares have been on a roll since the company reported a surprise third-quarter profit, surging on optimism it can produce profits on a more-sustainable basis. But it isn’t clear how soon the new truck will make a contribution. The Model Y crossover is scheduled to launch next summer, and limited production of the Semi truck is planned for next year.

TAGS: Innovation
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