Tesla v Ford Probably Ain’t Happening

As part of Tesla Motors’ debut of Cybertruck, CEO Elon Musk showed a clip in which the EV pickup yanks a Ford F-150 uphill against its will. The Blue Oval is also building an all-electric pickup, in addition to already manufacturing the best-selling truck model in history. Clearly, Tesla clearly wanted to place both on notice, though the video only provides evidence that Cybertruck can tug a rear-drive F-Series uphill in a video Tesla produced to show exactly that outcome.

Media outlets began musing if this was really a fair fight, apparently forgetting how advertising works, while science celeb Neil deGrasse Tyson offered a public physics lessons. “We all love Torque. But high Torque just spins a tire in place if there’s not enough weight to provide traction,” he said in response to the video. “Fully load the F150, giving highest traction to its rear wheels, then try to drag that up the hill. I otherwise agree: Load both to the max and the highest torque wins.”

Mr. Tyson’s new role as a Ford Truck Man remains unconfirmed, but the more likely scenario is that he’s simply trying to make sure the test is at least mildly scientific. Ford agreed, saying a fair test between brands was just what the doctor ordered. 

While Musk and Tyson debated the physics of the test, Ford X’s Sunny Madra suggested Tesla send over a Cybertruck so it could conduct the test in a fairer manner. It’s really dumb, as our own Steph Willems noted earlier in the day, as we all know the likelihood of this happening is precisely zero. Tesla’s pretty careful about who it lets reviews its production vehicles; sending Ford Motor Co a prototype pickup that it could take apart and examine is never going to happen.

The best we can hope for is both companies meeting in a dark alley to yank each other around a parking lot (the trucks, I mean). Yet even that seems like wishful thinking. Most automakers won’t even consider setting up live tests where they can’t stack the deck in their favor. We’d wager that’s what held back the big Tesla v Porsche showdown that never happened. Since every new electric car is a prospective “Tesla Killer,” the media wagered Porsche’s Taycan (formerly the Mission E) would beat it on a racetrack — as if it mattered.

None of these are direct comparisons. Porsche’s cars always have a performance angle, whereas Tesla is trying to build comfortable cruisers that can still manage blisteringly fast quarter-mile times (if you’ve got the green). Meanwhile, Ford’s F-150 is the default pickup for regular people. The thing even has its own emoji, for Christ’s sake.

But Cybetruck sneers at its utility and normality, offering trendiness and attitude instead. The outcome of any hypothetical tow competition doesn’t really matter because there’s little overlap between their customer base. Sure, it’d be a neat spectacle, but what would it change and who would it benefit? They’ve already got us talking about it during the holiday lull.

first published on TTAC

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