Electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian has yet to roll out a production-ready model, but the company remains on track to produce a truck and a utility vehicle. The Plymouth, Michigan-based automaker with a manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois, was expected to introduce its first model by the end of this calendar year. Instead, delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed that timeframe to next summer with the arrival of its R1T electric truck followed two months later by its R1S electric SUV.
Billions Raised; Fleet Orders In
That Rivian is still moving forward with its plans demonstrates its resiliency as well as its strong financial backing. Founded in 2009, the company operated mostly behind the scenes until recently when it revealed prototypes of its upcoming vehicles. Further, Rivian has raised more than $5 billion in capital investments from companies such as Amazon, the Ford Motor Company, Cox Automotive, T. Rowe Price, and BlackRock. It remains a privately-held enterprise although it does count outsiders such as a Ford executive as a board member.
Amazon has ordered more than 100,000 vans, a third model apparently designed with this Internet delivery company in mind. Also, the Ford Motor Company is developing an electric truck based on the skateboard chassis underpinning Rivian vehicles. However, a second model, a Lincoln SUV, was canceled because of the pandemic.
Incidentally, the flexible Rivian platform includes electric motors, controls, batteries, and a suspension system. Likely, it will underpin other models for Rivian as well as for varying manufacturers who develop their own shell and interior. This means manufacturers will enjoy a vehicle with four independent electric motors sending up to 200 horsepower to each wheel. The company claims the platform’s torque management system allows for everything from high-speed cornering to low-speed rock crawling.
Poached Employees; Ordering Details
Rivian hasn’t been without controversy as Tesla alleges the company has poached employees who brought trade secrets with them. Rivian has 2,300 employees and Tesla claims 178 once worked for them. Moreover, the company identified four Tesla-turned-Rivian employees for taking confidential documents with them. Tesla filed suit against Rivian; the case is pending.
Customers may “pre-order” a Rivian truck or SUV by supplying the company with a $1,000 deposit. The deposit automatically places the customer on a waiting list, but it doesn’t obligate them to follow through on their purchase decision. Indeed, the deposit is fully refundable. That’s a typical practice for these kinds of ground-breaking models from upstart manufacturers.
Profile: RJ Scaringe
Rivian is headed by RJ Scaringe, a 37-year-old engineer from Florida. Scaringe has a doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT’s Sloan Automotive Lab.
Since its inception, the company now known as Rivian has undergone several changes, including its name and mission. Once called Avera Motors, the company changed its name following a lawsuit from Hyundai, which claimed “Avera” sounded too much like “Azera,” the name of its large sedan. The new name pays homage to the Indian River in Brevard County, Florida, where Avera was located.
Its mission has changed too as the company originally sought to build a small commuter car similar in scope to the Toyota Prius. Its new plans were originally kept under wrap for several years before its skateboard architecture emerged. What we see coming is based entirely on the new vision.
As of this writing, Rivian has more than 2,300 people on its payroll in locations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, California, Michigan, and Illinois. Eventually, the company will begin hiring workers for its Normal facility, which it acquired from Mitsubishi Motors in 2018. State and local incentives to the tune of $249 million made that acquisition possible.
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