Tesla was on the receiving end of some fighting words from Navistar International Corp’s CEO, Troy Clark. In an interview with Trucks.com, Clark said that his company will have more electric trucks on the road than Tesla semis by 2025. His theory, he says, is based on the fact that Navistar already has an established client list and they already understand how to service those customers.
“Customers know us, and they know that when we give them a truck it gives them a guarantee that this truck is going to serve their needs, because we understand how our customers make money,” Clarke said.
Navistar and its partner Volkswagen are developing an electric truck together. According to a Reuters report published in September 2017, the truck is going to be a medium-duty vehicle that they’re set to launch in 2019. They also plan to create “common hardware” and technology that will enable their trucks to connect to the internet. Volkswagen owns a 16.6 percent stake in Navistar as of 2016. In terms of marketing the truck, Navistar will be targeting “urban delivery customers” in the North American market.
Telsa announced its intention to produce their semi truck late last year. They’re currently taking pre-orders for two versions of the vehicle, one with a 500-mile range and another with a 300-mile range. There’s also a Founders series version that costs between $20,000 and $50,000 more.
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Since the splashy media launch, some large conglomerates have made Tesla semi pre-orders, including Walmart, Pepsico, J.B Hunt, and Sysco. UPS just made the biggest order so far at 125 units. According to Business Insider, one Morgan Stanley analyst claims that Tesla’s semi truck orders may already total 1,230 units. In the research note, he cited figures from Green Car Reports but also admitted that he had no way of independently fact-checking that number.
Despite the impressive specs and early adoption by large companies, there are critics who doubt that Tesla can produce a truck that can compete with established manufacturers like Navistar. One transport analyst told Trucks.com that one of Tesla’s main weaknesses is that they lack the service centers that can provide maintenance to trucks en route. These will have to be built either by Tesla or through a 3rd party provider. Longtime truckmakers have built large networks of dealerships that make it easy for trucks to be serviced during long hauls. That’s one advantage that legacy manufacturers have over Tesla and only time will tell how Elon Musk and Co. plan to tackle it.