Electric Vehicle Start-up Rivian Announces Revised Delivery Dates.  

The pickup R1T deliveries are scheduled to begin in June of 2021.  The sport utility vehicle will R1S begin delivery in August of 2021.

A privately held company founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, Rivian stayed under the publics’ radar until 2018 when it revealed is offerings and started taking pre-orders in November of that year.  

For almost two years, people have sat in front of their computer screens to drop a $1000 fully refundable deposit to get in line to order a Rivian vehicle.   No official counts have been disclosed but speculation puts the number of deposits somewhere north of 30,000 vehicles.  Rivian has not told depositors where they stand in the line.  They did announce the first vehicles produced will be the R1T pickup with all the options.  Making them cost substantially more than the project $69,000 price tag of the basic model.

Rivian has consistently promoted its’ offerings as on and off-road adventure vehicles.  Power, range, sleek lines and funky lights have brought a lot of excitement to the market.  A commitment to environmentally friendly operations can a plus to potential customers.  One example of that commitment is the design of the batteries to be able to be used in solar power storage once their useful life in the vehicle is done.  Another is a vegetable garden at the production plant to supply the employee cafeteria.

People who have made deposits have been invited to “Get together” in major cities to get a first person look at the models.  At the event they get to talk to Rivian personnel including engineers, designers,  manufacturing personnel and maybe even the founder himself.  They could look at the vehicles but not sit in them or see them run.   Planned accessories show a world of possibilities for outdoor work and lifestyles.

Rivian becomes a big player without selling a vehicle.

Big investments in Rivian help add to the ongoing viability of the company.  In February of 2019 the company announced a $700 million dollar investment in Rivian led by Amazon and Adbul Latif Jameel Co a Saudi auto distributor.  By April Ford announced a $500 million investment as well and a partnership to deliver a new Ford electric vehicle.  In September of 2019 Amazon announced it was ordering 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian.  Also in September Rivian picks up another $350 million investment from Cox automotive.  That deal includes partnership opportunities in operations, logistics and retailing.  In December of 2019 Rivian announced another $1.3 billion dollar investment by T. Rowe Price, Amazon, Ford and BlackRock, Inc.

Another $2.5 billion investment came into Rivian on July 10th of 2020.  T. Rowe Price, Soros Fund, Coatue, Fidelity and Baron Capital led the way and existing investors Amazon and BlackRock also participated.  

With each announcement of investments from big name companies’ potential customers became more excited that Rivian would be able to deliver.  The electric vehicle industry has been littered with the bones of other start-ups who could not overcome the economic barriers to entry.  This is one hurdle Rivian has been able to get over with ease.

Some of the money has gone into purchasing and refurbishing a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois.  The 2.5 million square foot plant is being totally refitted.  Development centers are located in Plymouth, MI, San Jose and Irvine, CA and Surrey, England. At the end of 2016 Rivian had roughly 100 employees by April of 2020 that number was over 2000.

With this level of resources and progress Rivian has the opportunity to challenge Tesla to dominate the electric vehicle market.    

Covid-19 Pandemic Impact

Rivian closed its’ operations in Michigan, Illinois and California in April to comply with the stay-at-home orders.  Employees continued to be paid and work from home.  The physical work of getting the production plant up and running had to be stopped.  By the last week of May operations were up and running again.  But the delay prompted Rivian to revise their delivery schedule to June of 2021.

April of 2020 Ford announces it will cancel its plans for an all electric suv using Rivian technology for their luxury Lincoln brand.  The announcement included a teaser that indicated they would continue to work with Rivian on an “alternative vehicle.”

A Challenge from Tesla

Tesla just sued Rivian for theft of trade secrets, alleging former Tesla employees hired by Rivian took confidential Tesla documents with them to Rivian.  Rivian strongly denies the charges.  Tesla says several of their former employees who went to work for rival Rivian downloaded confidential documents and sent them to their personal emails before they left Tesla.   The tight employment market for talent with knowledge of the electric vehicle industry will make this an important development to watch.

Even without a production vehicle on the road, Tesla has to see Rivian coming up fast in the rearview mirror.  

Full disclosure the team at Voice Big holds deposits for both Rivian and Tesla pickups.

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