All-electric pickup trucks are easily one of the strangest new vehicle segments of the day. Designed to appeal to a demographic of American motorists that normally wouldn’t give EVs a second glance, they’ve probably managed to get more tech nerds interested in pickups than anything else. Leathery dudes who have labored outdoors their entire lives remain dubious that fuel-deprived products will make ideal working vehicles. But there are outliers and their younger (or wealthier) counterparts seem much more willing to entertain the marketing push behind the sudden onslaught of bedded electrics. And one wonders where these trucks are supposed to belong.
On Thursday, General Motors announced that the Chevrolet Silverado EV will be making its official debut at CES 2022 — a venue that has become synonymous with highfalutin electrics both real and imagined. With traditional automotive trade shows being canceled left-and-right over pandemic fears, the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show may have been Chevy’s best option. But it also opens up questions about what kind of customer is being targeted by the manufacturer.
While some all-electric trucks are obviously toys for people with more money than sense, others are clearly intended to be capable models with more than a few unique features made possible through electrification. Though we cannot forget that combustion pickups (and SUVs) have gradually become the de facto American luxury car, despite also managing to adhere to their humble origins. If you want a stout gizmo hauler for under $30,000, it’s available. But those seeking a lavishly appointed interior, meaty engine, and supple suspension can take the same vehicle with all the trimmings for a substantially higher MSRP.
It’s sort of the same story with electrics, just on a tighter timeline and less platform overlap. Originally framed as the economical solution to mankind’s need for combustible fuel, EVs have become fashionable automotive accessories with over half the segment averaging price tags in excess of $55,000.
When viewed as playthings designed to help early adopters flex on their neighbors, something like the Tesla Cybertruck or GMC Hummer EV SUT makes a lot more sense. But vehicles, like the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EV, are clearly supposed to bridge the gap between trendy luxury products and a legitimate working companion that’s ready to haul around livestock and lumber.
Chevy’s choice to show its wares at CES kind of muddies the water. Though they were already clouded by pickups and utilities adopting things like panoramic glass roofs (which the upcoming Silverado will also offer) and massaging leather seats. The Rivian RT1 has been praised for its on-road performance, impressive versatility, novel design, and surplus of unique features — all of which were made possible by its electric powertrain. But it’s one of the first EVs to use the pickup body style and clearly designed to appeal to well-heeled, environmental types that visit REI on the weekends and own luxury cabins as their second home.
The Silverado, like Ford’s Lightning, was rumored to be targeting commercial fleets and the kind of people who knowingly buy pickups to beat them to death. But that might be some marketing magic on the part of the manufacturer, especially when GM has opted to display the all-electric Silverado at a locale famous for featuring hypothetical flying taxi services and vaporware automobiles, while simultaneously providing an outlet for companies to share their utopian visions of society.
All of this pertained to GM, which had CEO Mary Barra using the CES 2021 keynote as an opportunity to discuss an all-electric future where vehicles are perpetually connected to each other and flying luxury drones become the norm.
“At General Motors, our vision for the future is a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” she told last year’s virtual audience. “The key to unlock that vision is electrification. The electrification of global transportation can help reduce emissions and power the advanced systems and connectivity between vehicles and transportation infrastructure to help reduce congestion and crashes.”
Barra could be correct. But the current state of EVs hasn’t convinced me of anything and General Motors’ decision to stick with CES still makes me worry that the Silverado EV isn’t being taken seriously as a mainstream product. Ford revealed the Lightning itself, which is something Chevrolet could likewise do if it didn’t feel compelled to use the Las Vegas venue.
Then again, CES has gradually been supplanting traditional automotive trade events. We’ve even seen pricy gasoline models, like the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, start appearing at the show — and it has been the dominant outlet for previewing autonomous technologies for years. Heck, John Deere has a booth. Perhaps the trade shows of yesterday are simply becoming passé and underserving of the time and money invested by the industry. Maybe the perpetual cancellation of in-person activities has simply made when and where you showcase a vehicle irrelevant. But I’m worried that the Silverado EV is going to have a big debut at CES before swiftly being directed to the back of the bus and promptly forgotten about.
What does the readership think? Am I overthinking the relevance of the event or does the B&B likewise wonder if CES is the best venue for a mainstream electric pickup?
[Image: General Motors]
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