Last week, troubled electric automaker Tesla announced Elon Musk’s latest brainchild, the Cybertruck. The Cybertruck—the name of which I am sure is meant to evoke the dystopian sci-fi genre cyperpunk—features a rolled steel and titanium exoskeleton that looks like a Nintendo 64 polygonal rendering of an automobile.
It’s unorthodox design aside, I honestly can’t make up my mind on whether or not I like this vehicle. Last week I lamented the new electric Mustang, not because it is electric, but because it’s a hatchback. The title of that piece was “New Mustang is a Sign of the Times,” and my point was that everything awesome seems to be deteriorating.
Does the Tesla Cybertruck fit that trend? Is it a horrible monstrosity? Or is it a daringly original vehicle?
I’m not sure.
One review argued the Cybertruck is the car we deserve, one built for our fractured times: it’s indestructible exoskeleton (and not-so-indestructible windshields) will serve us well in our soon-to-arrive post-apocalyptic hellscape as we furtively haul ass from one scavenging raid to the next. That massive range on a single charge—a few hundred miles—will help when the oil reserves run low in Megaton City.
As ridiculous as it looks, I kind of like it. Of course, I love schlock from the 1980s, and this car looks like it’s from Blade Runner.
I also like the potential for maximum peacocking: I’m imagining myself pulling up wearing a leather jacket and aviator sunglasses, opening the door with fog flowing out (I wonder if dry ice comes standard?), flicking a toothpick aside (I’m too responsible to smoke, especially in a $40,000 vehicle). If Tesla cuts a commercial for the Cybertruck to that effect—maybe set to a Judas Priest song, or The Scorpions’ “Rock Me Like a Hurricane”—I’m sold.
Of course, reality hits after these self-indulgent fantasies. A friend of mine—a big tech guy out West, who is professionally and temperamentally predisposed to be a Tesla fanboy—compared the Cybertruck to the ultimate 1980s vehicle, the Delorean. While I can see the similarities, the Cybertruck looks a little too outrageous, a little too cyberpunk, to compare to the Delorean.
What I appreciate about the Cybertruck, though, is that it is original—well, original-ish. The Cybertruck surely draws inspiration from old video games (how could it not, especially with all of those irregular polygons). Otherwise, it definitely looks nothing like any other vehicle on the market today. And its features seem useful in a number of capacities—towing, camping, etc.
But… the Pontiac Aztek—to which the Cybertruck is drawing unfortunate comparisons—was original and functional, too, and it was hideous. That vehicle probably contributed to the destruction of Pontiac. The Cybertruck is even more angular and jarring.
Pre-orders, per a Musk Tweet, are around 200,000, but that’s with a $100 refundable deposit. Some of the reading I’ve done suggests there is a market for a light truck that is electric or a hybrid.
Also, is Cybertruck really a “truck”? The truck market is very traditional, with intense brand loyalty (again, based on comments and such I’ve read—I’m no expert). Anecdotally, I can say that trucks are a yuge part of our culture here in the South, especially for young men of a certain stripe, who invest huge amounts of their identities and their cash into their trucks. I have a hard time seeing those guys switching over to the Cybertruck.
But if Tesla is angling for the weekend warrior techno-elite class—the nerds who want to feel cool and like they’re living in their sci-fi fantasies—the Cybertruck might pay off. I’m not a techno-elite, but temperament and interests definitely align with the nerds.
As for what the Cybertruck says about our times, well… who knows? I appreciate the radical design and the bold attempt at doing something original in an age of recycled cultural products. But even the Cybertruck’s originality is recycled from the B-Roll of a Robocop flick.
Well, there’s nothing new under the sun. But for my money, there are worse midlife-crisis-mobiles for forty grand.