How Elon Musk is Extending the Tesla Brand


Tesla Logo

Never one to ignore a vacuum for long, Elon Musk has come out with yet another teaser about Tesla’s future, after last month announcing a brand extension into trucking and a new roadster—and this one is juicy enough to make a big impact during a week that’s typically quiet in the auto industry following the year-end holiday sales blitz.

On the day after Christmas, Musk tweeted his gratitude to Tesla owners with a note to his 17.1 million Twitter followers, ending with a question: “How can we improve further?”

While it may seem like an innocent question, how many billionaire owners of multiple brands, as Musk is, take the time to poll customers (current or prospective) and actually respond?

So when one of his Twitter followers asked about a Tesla pickup truck, Musk responded by saying that he promises Tesla will “make a pickup truck right after Model Y.” In fact, he added, he’s “dying to build it.”

Elon Musk promises pickup truck

In promising a pickup after the Model Y compact sport-utility vehicle rolls off the production line, Musk is hoping there won’t be a repeat of the problems that Tesla has had in boosting production of the widely-awaited Model 3 EV, which is intended to compete with the Chevrolet Bolt for middle-class pocketbooks.

Assuming Musk delivers on that promise, a Tesla pick-up would challenge GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Honda in what is the hottest, most profitable and even most sacrosanct segment of the traditional auto industry.

More than 400,000 customers who have paid $1,000 deposits for a Model 3 have been waiting for Musk & Co. to resolve the “production hell” of delays and difficulties at its California assembly plant.

Such difficulties were the first thing that came to the minds of some observers as they evaluated Musk’s latest tweets. “Seems like Tesla is biting off a lot and should focus to master the Model 3 first,” said Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs.

Still, as much as Musk and Tesla have rattled the cages of the traditional auto industry via the success of the initial Model S luxury sports car, and the Model X utility vehicle that followed, the startup could disrupt the state of affairs with a pickup truck that Musk said would be slightly bigger than Ford’s market-leading F-150.

It would need to be bigger, Musk said, “to account for a really game-changing (I think) feature I’d like to add.”

First, however, after straightening out production difficulties for the Model 3, Musk has promised that he’ll bring out the Model Y small SUV and then tackle another ambitious project: fielding a semitrailer truck that could be the first vehicle to demonstrate Tesla’s ambitions in autonomous driving.

As for other product and feature requests sent to him on Twitter, Musk was also taken with one tongue-in-cheek user suggestion: “Disco Mode,” anyone?





  • Dale Buss

    Well, except Bolt and Model 3 are competitors in the sense of being the mass-market vanguard in long-range all-electric vehicles. Model 3 is a sedan while Bolt is a hatchback.