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Tesla Introduces Cybertruck

22nd November 2019

Tesla introduced its Cybertruck on Thursday, to mixed reviews.

Tesla has a cadre of fanboys and girls that will fall over themselves over anything the company does. Its products thus far (the original Roadster, Model S, Model X, Model 3) have great features and (mostly) attractive packages. The upcoming Model Y seems to continue this. Further ahead, Tesla will (someday, one can presume) begin producing and selling the new Roadster and the Semi. Every one of these products has an attractive, distinctive design inside and out, long-range batteries, amazing acceleration and have garnered a cult-like following. A version of the Model 3 is the most efficient vehicle you can buy in the United States, getting a rating of 141 MPGe from the US EPA. Clearly, the company has a lot going for it.

Thursday, Tesla seemed to consciously put all of that on the line with the introduction of the Cybertruck. With a design that can be generously described as “unique”, Tesla seemed to say, “Let’s see how ugly we can make a vehicle and have people still fawn all over it.” This seemed like a joke. One might be excused if they were waiting for the punchline at the end. Surely, they would show the real Cybertruck soon, right? Nope. If there is a punchline, it wasn’t revealed yet.

The design is made up of entirely flat panels – there are no compound curves, no rounded surfaces. Frankly, I think an 8-year old drew this in art class, and Musk decided to make it as a joke. Besides being a (cough…cough) distinctive design, the only good reason to design a vehicle like this is to save tooling cost. When a typical exterior panel has the kind of surfaces you’re used to seeing, the part must go through multiple steps of stamping. The different tools required to do this are quite expensive and can really add up to many millions of dollars. This design requires none of that multi-step process and is certainly a big part in keeping the starting price less than $40,000.

One “feature” in particular has made a lot of news: the supposed armored glass windows. Musk described them as being like a transparent steel. To demonstrate this, well, just watch:

So much for “unbreakable” glass!

What do you think? Will this be a success? Do you like it? Am I being too harsh? I’d love to hear your opinions!

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Chevrolet (don’t call us Chevy) announced today a new program that will allow buyers of Corvette Z06 and ZR1 models to build the engine for their car! OK, they get to “help” build it, under heavy supervision. But still, how cool is it to have the opportunity to do this? I can tell you exactly how cool it is – $5800 cool. That’s how much Chevrolet charges for the PBC (“Corvette Engine Build Experience”) option on the Z06 and ZR1. PBC stands for Performance Build Center, which is the name of the facility in Wixom, Michigan that hand-builds the engines in those versions of the Corvette, as well as the Grand Sport’s.

Lest you cynically think that this is a way to avoid warranty coverage, GM says, “Like all engines assembled at the PBC, Engine Build Experience engines are covered by Chevy’s (sorry, I’ll try to use the more grown up word next time) five year / 100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty.”

The cynic in me is shocked that the General would actually allow any moron with the money to enter their plant, let alone build an engine that will still have a warranty – even under the heavy supervision. GM’s legal staff must be pulling out what is left of their hair over this one. Remember, these are the same legal eagles that killed the Corvette ad that showed a kid dreaming about driving a Corvette, because it was irresponsible to have a kid driving. They also tried to kill a Chevy (really…I’m trying) ad that showed Chevrolet (ha! did it!) cars and trucks driving onto a car carrier already driving at highway speed.

Still, this is way cool, and if I had $5800 (on top of the $75,235 MSRP for a Z06 or $109,130 MSRP for a ZR1), I would sure do it. As Jim Campbell, VP of Chevrolet (twice in a row!) said, “Simply put, no other sports car manufacturer can match the level of personal customer involvement that Corvette offers. The Corvette Engine Build Experience takes this personal involvement to an unprecedented level.”

That’s what I (and Jim) think. How about you? Please leave your comments below.

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The Chevy Volt, due out late this year, is being produced in small quantities for testing and evaluation at the company’s Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit. Before it was even ready for that step, it was produced at the preproduction facility at GM’s Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. GM gave the National Geographic Channel full access to the preproduction center. NatGeo takes you through the whole process, from creating molds to stamping, welding, painting and final assembly and trim. The videos below make up the whole show. While watching, keep in mind that this is where GM tests its production process. Most of the manual processes you will see do not happen in the “regular” assembly process.

If you’ve never been in a car factory, this show will give you a great idea of the immense complexity of the modern automobile. And as complex as an everyday car is, the Chevy Volt is much more complex. If you have been in a car factory, this will still be very interesting.  Enjoy!

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