The Open Road
Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk poked fun at today's trucks, but also helped shine the global spotlight on the entire industry. (Photo: Tesla)

Tesla's electric event a victory for entire industry

Last week’s unveiling of the Tesla electric truck left many unanswered questions. What’s the price tag? How much does it weigh?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk did not address those questions at his splashy party, so the finer details will need to wait for another day.

On social media, reaction was split between those thinking the Semi was the greatest thing ever and those who met Musk’s many bold claims with skepticism and sarcasm.

Regardless of your opinion, Musk deserves a thank you for raising trucking’s profile to heights it has never reached before.

Attending the event was surreal. The drinks were flowing and many were dressed as if they were at a nightclub. As Musk arrived in one of the Semis, grown men shrieked with excitement. Afterwards, a young child viewing the truck up close had a look in his eye that made me think it was a night he would not soon forget.

Tesla kid and dad

A father and son inspect the Tesla Semi after the unveiling event. (Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner)

The enormity was obvious in the press area, where I was one of six North American trucking journalists sitting alongside dozens of reporters from around the world. There was the New York Times, Fox News, and Rolling Stone. Stories were being written in Chinese, French, and other languages.

I even observed Tesla’s broad reach in my Facebook feed, where several friends with no attachment to trucking posted about the Semi.

Within trucking, complaints about the public’s lack of respect and understanding of the industry have long been a constant.

But on this one night in Los Angeles, the crowd, which stereotypically could be considered “coastal elites,” were hooting and hollering as they learned of the intricacies of trucking from Musk.

That’s not to say there were not cringe-worthy moments. His first comments focused on how much faster the Semi is than conventional diesels - something not really important. Beyond performance, he also poked fun at the appearance of today’s trucks as he touted the Semi.

To be fair, the truck is sleek and cool, inside and out.

The autopilot feature in a Tesla car reminds the driver to hold the steering wheel. (Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner)

Of course, those attributes alone do not guarantee success. Executives with equipment manufacturers say it is one thing to build a handful of trucks, but a different ballgame to pump out tens of thousands of units a year.

Stlll, that can’t take away from the star power Musk brings to trucking, even if Tesla is trying to dig out from production problems with its new Model 3.

Maybe the Semi will succeed, and further elevate Musk to the visionary figure many of his fans consider him to be. Or maybe not only the truck will fall but the entire company, as suggested by Bob Lutz, former CEO of General Motors, during an interview on CNBC

Either way, we should celebrate last week’s event. It’s another indication just how exciting the next few years will be and may be just what was needed to spark a true youth movement in trucking.

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