Stain­less steel, bro­ken glass and buzz, Tesla makes a pickup

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - BUSINESS - By Rachel Ler­man and Cathy Bussewitz AP Writ­ers

The much-hyped un­veil of Tesla’s elec­tric pickup truck went off script Thurs­day night when sup­pos­edly un­break­able win­dow glass shat­tered twice when hit with a large metal ball.

The failed stunt, which ranks high on the list of em­bar­rass­ing auto in­dus­try roll­outs, came just af­ter CEO Elon Musk bragged about the strength of “Tesla Ar­mor Glass” on the wedge-shaped “Cy­bertruck.”

On a Los An­ge­les-area stage with Musk, Tesla de­sign chief Franz von Holzhausen hurled a soft­ball-sized metal ball at the driver’s side win­dow to demon­strate the strength of the glass, which Musk called “Trans­par­ent Metal Glass.” It shat­tered.

“Oh my ... God,” Musk said, ut­ter­ing an ex­ple­tive. “Maybe that was a lit­tle too hard.”

They tried it a se­cond time on the left pas­sen­ger win­dow, which spi­der-cracked again.

Musk re­cov­ered with a one-liner: “At least it didn’t go through. That’s a plus side.”

The fail­ure over­shad­owed the truck’s slick un­veil­ing, with some an­a­lysts pan­ning its looks. The truck, a stain­less-steel cov­ered tri­an­gle, re­sem­bles the much de­rided Pon­tiac Aztek SUV sold by Gen­eral Mo­tors in the early 2000s.

In­vestors ap­par­ently didn’t like the stunts or the truck’s fu­tur­is­tic de­sign, which is aimed at get­ting a foothold in the most prof­itable part of the U.S. auto mar­ket. Tesla shares fell al­most 6% in mid­day trad­ing Fri­day.

“Tesla’s Cy­bertruck re­veal will likely disappoint cur­rent pickup truck own­ers, and we see the ve­hi­cle re­main­ing a niche and not a main­stream prod­uct,” Cowen In­vest­ment Re­search an­a­lyst Jef­frey Os­borne wrote in a note to in­vestors. “While we are pleased to see Tesla en­ter the most prof­itable seg­ment of the North Amer­i­can pas­sen­ger car mar­ket, we do not see this ve­hi­cle in its cur­rent form be­ing a suc­cess.”

Over the years, such stunts have been com­mon at highly re­hearsed auto in­dus­try un­veils. But there have been some em­bar­rass­ing mishaps. At Detroit’s auto show ear­lier this year, an In­finiti con­cept elec­tric SUV missed its in­tro­duc­tion when it wouldn’t start and the com­pany couldn’t move it onto the stage.

Per­haps the most fa­mous mis­cue came in Detroit in 2008 when Chrysler showed off the new Ram pickup truck with a cat­tle drive out­side the con­ven­tion cen­ter. But some of the cat­tle started mat­ing, draw­ing at­ten­tion away from the ve­hi­cle.

“You can re­hearse it 100 times, and the 101st is the time you do it be­fore the pub­lic and it fails,” said Bud Liebler,

who was head of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Chrysler from 1980 through 2001.

He was in charge when Chrysler be­came fa­mous for auto-show stunts, in­clud­ing driv­ing a Jeep Grand Chero­kee up the en­try steps and through the front win­dows of Detroit’s con­ven­tion cen­ter in the 1990s.

Liebler said he con­sid­ers the Tesla event a “fi­asco,” but said Musk did the only thing he could when the glass broke. He joked about it and con­tin­ued on with the show. “It’s got to be an em­bar­rass­ment,” Liebler said.

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