The polarizing angular design of Tesla’s upcoming Cybertruck was far from universally loved within the company when it was first unveiled, according to a new biography of CEO Elon Musk.
In the book “Elon Musk” by Walter Isaacson, Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen reveals that most engineers wanted nothing to do with the Cybertruck after seeing an early mock-up.
“A majority of the people in this studio hated it,” von Holzhausen said. “They were like, ‘You can’t be serious.’ They didn’t want to have anything to do with it. It was just too weird.”
According to the book, some engineers even began covertly designing an alternative, more conventional pickup truck after seeing the prototype on display at SpaceX in 2019.
But Elon Musk was undeterred by the negative feedback and pressed forward with his vision. “I don’t do focus groups,” Musk said.
Rather than tweak the design, Musk demanded a driveable Cybertruck be ready to demo by November of that year. The tight timeline forced the team to rally together to build the first prototype from Musk’s specifications.
The anecdote highlights Musk’s sometimes controversial top-down leadership style at Tesla, where his whims become company mandates. It also reveals the Cybertruck’s divisive design had detractors even within Tesla’s own ranks.
Since the pickup’s splashy reveal in 2019, the Cybertruck has been extensively redesigned and its launch has been pushed back to late 2023. But the overall futuristic concept has remained, for better or worse.
The Cybertruck represents a bold but risky bet by Tesla. Its success will come down to how many people share Musk’s radically different vision for the future of trucks.
Love it or hate it, the Cybertruck is a prime example of Tesla’s willingness to defy convention and push boundaries under Musk’s leadership. As the book shows, that mindset doesn’t always sit well with those executing his vision.