Does Tesla Have Enough Production Capacity to Build a Pickup?

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Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), took to Twitter to talk about the company’s prospects. Among the responses when he asked for “suggestions” was that Tesla build a pickup. He not only said yes but added that it would be full-sized version, which means it will compete with the best-selling vehicle in the country, Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) F-150. The pickup would also compete with two other best-selling vehicles in the United States, General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Chevy Silverado and the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) Ram.

Tesla already has admitted it is behind in the manufacture of its low-priced Model 3. How then can it get into the pickup market, which would require huge production capacity?

Ford will sell close to 900,000 F-150 models this year. GM will sell over 550,000 Silverados and Fiat Chrysler will sell 500,000 Rams. A Tesla pickup might be toy for the full-sized pickup sector, aimed at those consumers wildly attracted to all-electric trucks. In terms of gas mileage, Ford already has a version of the F-150 that gets 26 miles per gallon for highway driving. While this is nowhere close to what a Tesla would post, it is a high-mileage engine as far as full-sized pickups go.

It is a long shot that Tesla could build 100,000 pickups a year, which is what would be required to dent the market. Tesla’s capacity is already constrained by models beyond the Model 3. Demand is high for its original Model S, its Model X crossover and a Roadster that has not gone into production.

Musk has exaggerated Tesla’s capacity in the past, which has made investors nervous and consumers wary about whether it can deliver enough new cars to meet demand. A full-sized pickup would be a bridge too far.