Bringing a new vehicle into production is an undertaking that has bankrupted many a would-be automaker. EV trend-setter Tesla started out with just one low-volume model, and narrowly survived the experience. Electric truck startup Rivian Automotive plans to launch three new vehicles in the space of a few months.
Rivian-watchers say the company is counting on the delivery van it’s building for Amazon to deliver revenue as it brings its electric pickup and SUV into a rapidly-heating market. Rivian hopes to launch its R1T pickup this June, then follow up with the R1S SUV in August and the Amazon van later in the year.
Unnamed sources told Bloomberg that Rivian aims to produce up to 40,000 vehicles in its first full year, as it builds an annual capacity of about 300,000. Backers Amazon and Ford are providing financing and operational advice, but successfully ramping production of three different models to that magnitude will be an impressive feat indeed for such a young company.
The Irvine, California-based firm is pursuing its quest in a 2.4 million-square-foot former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, which Rivian retrofitted with advanced robotics and other modern production technology.
Rivian endured pandemic- and supplier-related delays last year, and now a horde of engineers and technicians is toiling to keep the production schedule on track. Pre-production builds of Rivian’s R1T pickup and R1S SUV are currently moving down a pilot line as the company refines its production process.
As if all this weren’t enough, the company is planning to go public, perhaps by the end of this year, and is also scouting locations for a future European factory.
“Getting off the ground alone is a big deal for an EV startup, but Rivian takes on the added complication of having three models come out in the same year,” Sam Fiorani, VP of AutoForecast Solutions, told Bloomberg. “How many American automotive companies have started since World War II and been successful? It’s a list of one—Tesla.”