An illustration of cowboy characters with lassos driving Tesla Cybertrucks.
Illustrations: Jackson Gibbs

Tesla’s Cybertruck Has a Huge Cowboy Problem

Can Tesla and Rivian convince practical Ford-loving pickup drivers to buy their futuristic machismo machines?

David H. Freedman
Published in
16 min readFeb 5, 2020

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ItIt just doesn’t make sense to buy a car, to hear Mike Canada tell it. “You gotta have a truck,” says the expansively bearded 64-year-old who owns a cluttered, sprawling antique and collectibles shop on the outskirts of Houston. “Cars can only get passengers from point A to B. Trucks can do that, too, but sometimes you have to haul something.” Canada himself owns two trucks — a 2002 Ford F-150 for a daily workhorse, and a low-mileage 1967 Ford F-100 for, well, just because.

Welcome to Houston, where the go-to vehicle has always been the pickup truck. The bestselling vehicle here, is by far a pickup — the Ford F-150 specifically — accounting for about a quarter of all new vehicle sales here, with most of the rest taken up by large SUVs categorized as “light trucks.”

The Cybertruck, of course, is the electric pickup theatrically introduced by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in November that looks like an armored mini-troop carrier from a dystopian sci-fi fantasy.

Texas as a whole grabs about one out of six of all pickups sold in the U.S. It’s not just buyers who love them. About two-thirds of the stolen vehicles here are pickup trucks, and three men were jailed in 2018 for forcing an elderly woman to buy them pickups. When famed automotive auctioneering firm Mecum held a big auction in Houston last April, they didn’t even bother to run cars through it, just trucks. So universal is the pickup here that it has become a municipal unit of measurement — the Houston city website describes the volume of trash it will pick up in terms of the space taken up by two pickup trucks.

Houston, of course, is a window into the rest of America, which last year bought more than 2.5 million pickup trucks, nearly a million of them Fords.

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David H. Freedman
Marker
Writer for

David is a Boston-based science writer. The most recent of his five books is WRONG, about the problems with medical research and other expertise.