Cybertruck designer says Tesla stainless steel pickup is no experiment

By Nichola Groom and Cath Turner

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The angular, polarizing design of the Cybertruck will help boost the Tesla brand, the electric vehicle maker’s chief designer said on Thursday, adding that the pickup was no experiment.

“Love it or hate it, it’s a conversation starter, and it gets people talking about the brand,” Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen said at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, which is adding Cybertruck models to a Tesla exhibit.

The long-delayed Cybertruck starts at a price of $60,990, over 50% more than what CEO Elon Musk had touted in 2019, with a smaller range than originally promised.

But it is drawing interest from people who have never owned a truck, with some potential owners queuing up for it at some Tesla showrooms, von Holzhausen said.

“Just because it looks different doesn’t mean that it can’t be potentially a high volume vehicle,” he added, saying the pick-up measures up to the performance of traditional rivals. “There seems to be this air of doubt.”

“We’re bringing people into the market that never would have owned a truck before,” von Holzhausen said. “And so I don’t think it’s an experiment.”

The stainless-steel clad truck is all angles, in part because a traditional press can’t bend the steel into curves. The Lamborghini Countach, also an aggressively angular car, had also inspired the design, as had Lockheed’s F-117 Stealth Fighter jet, von Holzhausen said.

“It looks like it shouldn’t do what it does, yet, intelligent engineers figured it out,” he said of the F-117.

The Tesla design studio was also inspired by the car-turned-submarine in the 1977 James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which Musk bought.

The Cybertruck’s launch has not been without glitches.

In 2019, von Holzhausen threw a metal ball at the truck during at its launch event, shattering two of its fortified glass windows. At another an event last month where the first trucks were delivered, he lobbed a baseball at the windows without any damage.

A recent viral video also showed the Cybertruck carrying a Christmas-tree being pulled up a slope it was unable to climb by a gasoline-powered car.

Von Holzhausen, however, defended the car, saying his kids love being picked up from school in the Cybertruck, and he has been mistaken for Musk by people when driving it.

(Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; writing by Peter Henderson; editing by Miral Fahmy)