Earlier today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted something, that, to my surprise, I actually like. Now, I realise I’ve been critical of Musk and the dumb things he has tweeted before, but this time there’s a core concept in this tweet that I heartily approve of. This doesn’t happen too often, so I figure it’s worth noting when it does.
Here’s the tweet in question, in a response to a response to an article predicting the Cybertruck, whenever it finally comes out, will flop:
To be frank, there is always some chance that Cybertruck will flop, because it is so unlike anything else.
I don’t care. I love it so much even if others don’t.
Other trucks look like copies of the same thing, but Cybertruck looks like it was made by aliens from the future.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2021
Now, it’s not the Cybertruck itself I’m defending here; I personally feel it’s a deeply stupid design, ill-suited for actual, real-world truck use, and every new thing I hear about it just makes me more convinced, like this other Elon tweet talking about how it will forego door handles:
In end, we kept production design almost exactly same as show car. Just some small tweaks here & there to make it slightly better.
No door handles. Car recognizes you & opens door.
Having all four wheels steer is amazing for nimble handling & tight turns!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2021
Having systems in the truck to recognise you and automatically open doors is, I think, a waste of resources and hardware. Door handles work fine! This is a silly party trick that will inevitably bite you on the arse when it goes wrong.
Maybe if it was for a cargo door on a van where you’re likely to have your arms full, like the foot-wave tailgates that many modern SUVs have, but this is just showy bullshit.
Also, the Cybertruck design looks like something Curtis Brubaker did way back in 1978:
OK, sorry, I know you’re not here to have to endure with me shitting on the Cybertruck — a vehicle that, for what it’s worth, I don’t necessarily think will flop. And, it’s worth mentioning that in the field of full-size trucks, it’s not like they’re not also overgrown, miserably ugly things — I mean, look at the Chevy Silverado HD:
That’s a fucking monster right there. It’s awful. That whole segment is a disaster of colossal, ugly, ridiculous machines.
What I like about what Elon said is this part:
….there is always some chance that Cybertruck will flop, because it is so unlike anything else. I don’t care. I love it so much even if others don’t.
What I like about this is that he, and by extension, Tesla is willing to make something dramatically different from the norm and take the risk. It’s something I wish more automakers would do.
Because, he’s right that trucks — and, really, most SUVs, crossovers, cars, everything — do tend to end up looking the same. This isn’t a new phenomenon — cars from every decade tend to converge on a particular sort of generalized design of the era, for a large number of reasons ranging from the styling trends of the era, manufacturing advancements, aerodynamic understanding, and so on.
But those rare cars where someone decides to try something new are the ones we really remember. The Chevrolet Corvair, for example, stood out technically — with its rear-engine design — and stylistically when it arrived in the late 1950s, but ended up defining the style of the decade to come.
People remember the VW Beetle because it was designed like a car of the 1930s all the way to 2003, so it stood out. We remember supercars that break all the rules because they’re for people rich enough to not give a shit, and we remember oddball designs like the Gremlin or Pacer because AMC was always too desperate and broke to give a shit.
The point is, it’s good to have unexpected, unusual car designs out in the world. I don’t have any desire for a Cybertruck, but I want to see them out on the road, mixing it up in traffic, making our carscape more varied.
I hope enough Cybertrucks sell so that other manufacturers become emboldened enough to try designing strange, unexpected vehicles that might be more to my tastes.
The more variety, the better. I’d love to see all sorts of bonkers ideas on the roads, and I want to see things that I love and things that I just can’t stand, because that means you’re alive, not suspended in the monochrome miasma of crossovers and SUVs and hulking pickups that choke our roads today.
To get there, though, automakers need to take the passionate approach Elon is taking to his big, awkward, sharp-cornered Cybertruck: it’s enough that he loves it, so they’re going to build it.
Carmakers can ignore the focus groups for at least one daring thing in their lineups, can’t they? Sure they can.
Listen to Elon. Emulate his love of that stupid truck, and we’ll all be better for it.