Tesla's Cybertruck pickup faces stiff, growing competition

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has the automotive world abuzz with the introduction of Tesla's long-promised stealthy looking Cybertruck pickup truck. 

It is revolutionary, but will it convince the millions of "pick 'em up truck" owners who like the sound, smell, and history of a utility vehicle. 

The Tesla Cybertruck wowed the LA Auto Show audience Thursday night, Musk thereby putting himself in a fight for a slice of one of autodom's biggest and most competitive markets. Wall Street Journal Technology and Transportation reporter Tim Higgins says the radical design is no mistake. "In order to appeal to perhaps news customers or to create a new market, Elon Musk is betting that he's gotta bring something totally different," he said. 

For some buyers, the radical design alone will be a non-starter. Then there's the increasingly thorny issue of an onslaught of old and new electric vehicle manufacturers. Design notwithstanding, Tesla still has to convince pickup buyers that Musk’s is the better performer. "Show that an electric truck has the same kind of capabilities as gasoline-powered trucks," said Higgins.

Professor Jim Sallee is an energy economist at UC Berkeley's Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business. "It took Tesla to be disruptive to get traditional automakers to be serious about putting electric vehicles into the market and so, I think, some of the same dynamics are happening in the truck market right now," said Professor Sallee. 

Amazon has invested in the soon to come Rivian. Another soon to come electric, the Atllis XT. Lordstown motors just took over a massive former GM assembly plant in Ohio. Another newbie, Bollinger, will make pickups and SUVs. "We're seeing just the beginning of the market for pickup trucks," said Sallee. Add to that the big three U.S. pickup makers, Ford, Chevy, and RAM, who have no intention of giving away any market share. "Some people who buy an electric truck want people to know they're driving something different and so they might be excited by a futuristic, unusual vehicle. But if what consumers want is an F-150 looking truck that has an electric performance and electric benefits, that's gonna be available for them," said Sallee.

Experts believe that electric vehicle sales will slowly grow from two percent of the overall vehicle market to about ten percent five years from now unless a super oil crisis or climate change disaster takes place.