What happened

Shares of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) were trading sharply lower on Friday morning after the Thursday-night reveal of the company's Cybertruck pickup fell short of expectations.

As of 11:00 a.m. EST, Tesla's shares were down about 6% from Thursday's closing price.

So what

Investors had expected Tesla's much-touted pickup truck to be a more-or-less forthright electric challenger to the huge-selling (and hugely profitable) full-size pickups from Ford Motor (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU).

But CEO Elon Musk had other plans.

The Tesla Cybertruck, a sharply angular stainless-steel-bodied futuristic pickup truck.

To say the least, Tesla's Cybertruck doesn't look like anything else on the road. Image source: Tesla, Inc.

As you can see, Tesla's Cybertruck is a jarringly angular stainless-steel-bodied behemoth that looks like it escaped from the set of a dystopian sci-fi film. While the claims for range and towing capacity and so forth are impressive -- as one would expect from Tesla -- the design of the Cybertruck and its decidedly oddball features suggest strongly that it will be a niche product at best -- and that much development work remains to be done.

At least in its current form, it's not a truck for truck buyers. That means it's unlikely to sell in anything like Detroit-pickup volumes, and investors appear to be adjusting their expectations accordingly.

Now what

Customers can reserve a Cybertruck with a deposit of just $100, a hint that Tesla might be hoping to rack up strong reservation numbers. Good early numbers might impress investors, but take note: Tesla's site warns that the first deliveries won't happen until late 2021 at the earliest, and GM and Ford are both expected to have battery-electric pickups on sale by then.

It's far too early to even guess how the competition will shape up, but -- at least right now -- auto investors seem to think that Tesla missed an opportunity.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.