Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the company conducted "zero" consumer research when designing its upcoming Cybertruck.
He says he doesn't pay attention to competitors or know anything about other electric vehicles on the market.
And criticism that the Autopilot name is misleading for Tesla's driver-assist system, which has been linked to a number of accidents? "Idiotic."
In a wide-ranging interview with Automotive News Publisher Jason Stein last week, the 49-year-old Musk appeared unbothered by the product-related headaches that often vex his competitors or the billions of dollars that can hinge on his declarations. At one point he made a "stream-of-consciousness guess" that Tesla will start construction on a third U.S. assembly plant in four or five years, and later he suggested the company might build a minivan before largely dismissing the idea in the next sentence.
To Musk's credit, Tesla continues to pace the industry in EV sales; it pioneered a digital retail model that's becoming increasingly popular amid the coronavirus pandemic; and it has strung together four consecutive quarterly profits, albeit largely through the sale of regulatory credits to those competitors he says he doesn't watch very closely. Despite numerous manufacturing challenges — and more than a few unforced Twitter faux pas — Tesla has soared in value, its market cap doubling after Musk publicly called its stock price too high.
"I must be doing something right, as far as my managing style's concerned," Musk said. "Tesla's worth twice as much as the rest of the U.S. auto industry combined."
He said he hopes to continue roiling the industry by launching the Cybertruck pickup next year. Although Tesla is entering a high-stakes segment with fiercely loyal customers, Musk admitted the truck was not guided by any of the focus groups or outreach to would-be buyers that Ford, Chevrolet and Ram have relied on over the decades to hone their designs.
"Customer research?" he said, before bursting into laughter. "We just made a car we thought was awesome and looks super weird. I just wanted to make a futuristic battle tank — something that looks like it could come out of Blade Runner or Aliens or something like that but was also highly functional."