Rivian will go global, just not yet. The young electric car maker has begun production of its first model, the 2022 rivian r1t electric pickup truck that is sized between a midsize and fullsize pickup and can go 314 miles on a single charge, with goat-like off-road abilities. The rivian r1t will be followed in a few months by the 2022 Rivian R1S, an electric three-row SUV that uses the same platform. More vehicles are expected from the R1 platform, with an R2 family of vehicles to come, as well as vans for Amazon Prime as well as the Rivian brand.
“You wouldn’t start a car company with the idea of only doing one car,” says Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe in an interview with MotorTrend. “We have to develop a portfolio of programs and platforms.”
Similarly, Rivian can’t make a serious impact in the industry without thinking globally, Scaringe says. “The technologies, the architectures, the platforms are designed to support our global aspirations, as well.”
Right-Hand-Drive Rivians Part of the Plan
Eventually there will be right-hand drive versions of Rivian models, he tells us. The automaker has not announced when the R1T and R1S will be available outside the U.S. and Canada. The immediate problem is meeting demand at home, where there is a long waiting list for vehicles.
Rivian bought a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, in 2017 and retooled and expanded it to be capable of building 200,000 vehicles annually. Some parts of the plant are already running on two shifts and Scaringe wants everything ramped up as soon as possible to meet demand for the Rivian and Amazon vehicles.
Waiting List Could Extend to 2023 Models
The CEO won’t say how many orders are waiting to be filled but acknowledged some customers could end up getting a 2023 model. And he continues site scouting for a second plant to handle his future volume projections. Scaringe won’t say when that decision will be made or whether it will be a “greenfield” (new construction) plant as opposed to retooling an existing factory.
Rivian uses a direct sales model, rather than dealerships. Customers will have to place orders in states that allow direct sales and arrange delivery from there. Scaringe is not worried about it; it is additional cost now, but he is convinced it will be resolved over time. “In the end it is hard for me to imagine a world where we’re not able to sell direct in every state.”
Customers go online to configure their vehicle, arrange a vehicle to come for a test drive, make the transaction remotely, and their new truck will be delivered to their home. Service will also come to a customer’s home when necessary, but Scaringe estimates 60-70 percent of repairs can be done remotely with over-the-air diagnostics, updates, and repairs.
Rivian Truck and SUV Mix
As for the mix of trucks and SUVs from the R1 platform, the CEO thinks demand could be fairly even. Customers who initially thought they wanted the three-row SUV for the extra cargo space are now eyeing the pickup truck’s frunk (front trunk) and gear tunnel. “People thought they wanted an R1S and switched because of the cargo room in the R1T,” Scaringe says.
Consumers are also intrigued by the camp kitchen in the pickup, housed in a gear tunnel which provides a lane of storage between the truck cab and bed. Rivian is looking at future different countertops and themes, as well as ways to add a camp kitchen to the SUV, even though it does not have a gear tunnel to work with.
The R1 vehicles launch with a standard 135-kWh battery pack that holds 7,776 cells from Samsung in a pack containing nine modules, giving the truck 314 miles of range. A larger 400-mile 180-kWh “Max pack” battery is coming next year, Scaringe says, as well as an option for a smaller battery. The Normal plant has the flexibility to switch the mix of the R1 vehicles to meet fluctuations in demand.
Full-scale delivery of Amazon Prime electric delivery vans will also begin later this year. Ones on the road already are part of a pilot project. Rivian has a contract to build 10,000 vans for Amazon Prime.
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