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Tesla To Build Pickup, Or Is This A Distraction from Recall Talk?

George Kennedy
November 13, 2013

Electric automaker Tesla is working on a plug-in pickup truck. This is according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, at a Business Insider event yesterday in New York. According to Musk, the vehicle would be of a similar formula to the top-selling Ford F-150. This is certainly quite intriguing.

Ford has sold 60,000 F-150s in September alone, which makes the Ford pickup a good benchmark for an electric pickup. Musk said that a truck (if they really made it) would be about five years out.

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The subject came up when Musk was asked about plans for fleet vehicles to satisfy FedEx or UPS logistical needs. Musk stated that, yes, Tesla was working on a truck, but no, it would not be for fleets. This is a break with industry conventions, where automakers used to bake fleet sales into overall numbers to make quarterly performance look stronger than reality.

Tesla Pickup
Tesla Pickup

But what is the motivation behind an electric truck — or at least talking about it? I’m sure it will keep some attention off the fact that Tesla Model S cars have been going up like Roman Candles on the 4th of July. Three times since October, a Model S has caught fire, each related to the car striking road debris that punctured the undercarriage.

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According to Bloomberg, Tesla has no plans of recalling the Model S for any fire-related reasons. Meanwhile, NHTSA says it will not launch an investigation into the three fires, as they do not appear to be caused by a factory defect. Additionally, car fires happen all the time to all different kinds of cars, and in far greater numbers. The Teslas are receiving the attention because anything that happens with a Tesla receives a great deal of attention.

Model S
Model S

It’s a tough call for investigators. Car fires happen all the time, but the likelihood of a Tahoe or Camry catching fire from hitting road debris seems like it would be far less. Is the battery placement an issue? Is it guarded well enough from puncture?

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I’m a proponent of Tesla, but that certainly won’t stop me from asking– Is Musk hoping we wouldn’t focus on these questions while were busy talking about his plans for a truck? If his cars keep going up in flames, he won’t be able to put this media fire out.