Elon Musk has built a bakkie and #OMFG who doesn’t want a Cybertruck


I was really hoping Elon Musk would call his futuristic new Cybertruck a “bakkie”.

It would be true to his Pretoria roots. Instead, his chief designer threw a steel ball against the supposedly shatterproof glass windows, which duly shattered. Who didn’t see that coming?

It prompted arguably the funniest on-stage comment by any tech boss at one of the industry’s grandiose launch events: “Oh my fucking god”.

The world needed that. We need it just about daily in South Africa.

I’m sure it’s what former Minister of State Security Bongani Bongo said when he was arrested last week for corruption. I imagine a whole lot more state capturers are thinking that, having so publicly committed crimes that they never thought they would see the inside of a court for. I sense a new acronym hitting Twitter: #OMFG.

In Musk’s case, it was the ultimate live demo embarrassment, which frankly he handled with honesty and humour by saying that.

“We threw wrenches, we threw everything even literally the kitchen sink at the glass and it didn’t break. For some weird reason, it broke now,” Musk said almost sheepishly. “I don’t know why. We will fix it in post.”

Made from heavy-duty stainless steel, the Cybertruck looks like something out of a science fiction movie. And that has been Musk’s intention, from when he first announced it last November, saying it would “look like something out of Blade Runner”.

Indeed it does, and the famous artistic designer of that famous movie, Syd Mead, said it was “stylistically breathtaking” and “has completely changed the vocabulary of the personal truck market design”.

The futuristic-looking bakkie has a range of 800km from a single charge. Like all Teslas, it ain’t cheap, starting at $39,990 (R600,0000) and the top-end model costing $76,900 (R1,1m).

Despite the price and the launch mishap, Musk tweeted “200k” in reference to 200,000 people pre-ordering the truck with a refundable $100 deposit. I think the way Tesla asks for a deposit is as smart as the electric vehicle tech involved. It gives Tesla some working capital – in this case, $20m – and shows the intent of the potential market who want one.

They will have to wait until 2021 to get one, with production only starting next year.

But like all Teslas, it will be worth the wait. Tesla has pushed the boundaries of electric technology, but also its own seemingly optimistic production schedules. Both have had hiccups, but someone needs to push these restraints. When Musk first launched Tesla as a company in 2003, it was greeted with scepticism. Some of it was legitimate – and the numerous overambitious and frequently missed production targets haven’t helped – but it takes vision and, well, balls, to be a pioneer in any new technology.

Musk – in his sometimes arrogant, sometimes seemingly delusional – has been the kind of entrepreneur who has pushed, and crushed, the envelope. We need that. Even with bakkies.

This column first appeared in Financial Mail


About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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