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Redusernab Asks: Can Rivian pull it off?

Jeff Glucker November 29, 2018 Redusernab Asks 29 Comments

This one seems appropriate for Truck Thursday.

After spending a few hours at the 2018 LA Auto Show on Wednesday, I left most impressed by what Rivian brought to the party. The R1T truck and R1S SUV are both uniquely styled, electric machines with promises of big performance and capability. Can this small Michigan automaker really pull it all off though?

For the tech and performance being touted, the price points will make sense. No one else has a battery pack that large right now, nor can they duplicate the all-around specs Rivian is discussing. This includes a 400 mile range, sub three-second o-60 times, and a tow rating of 11,000 pounds. Put that all together in one package and it’s a massive achievement, not just in the EV space but for the industry as a whole.

The all-electric Rivian R1T actually looks pretty cool

I’d really like to see this company succeed as the products display look quite promising. But that’s a hard road bringing prototypes to production, and Rivian hopes to do that within two years time, give or take. To the company’s credit, the vehicles on display aren’t static units. These are the running driving machines used in promo videos and photography.

They’ve built at least two… now they need to kick things up and get the truck and SUV ready for market. Can they pull it off?

  • Wayne Moyer

    I have full faith this will work because they are going to follow the Mahindra plan to the fullest.

    • neight428

      Yes, just like Mahindra, but without any extant manufacturing, distribution, or sales organization.

      OTOH, it looks like one of their C-suite guys was at McLaren, so there’s that.

    • Papa Van Twee

      I hear there is a building that was going to be used as an auto manufacturing plant in Connorsville, Indiana that’s available for it. #CarbonMotors

      • Wayne Moyer

        Heck the Local Motors facilities in Vegas are available as well.

      • Rover 1

        Rivian have already bought the old Diamond Star /Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, for $16 million. Misubishi closed the plant in 2016, it had been valued at $2 billion. The plant is currently still being used as a storage ground for VW’s ‘dirty diesels’.

    • P161911

      I thought they were following the Fisker model.

      • Wayne Moyer

        That only gives you good Karma.

        • outback_ute

          Perhaps they should have released the ‘good’ Karma model instead then?

  • neight428

    The EV market will make for a very interesting business case study, but I’m not sure how it ends. The specs here are extremely compelling, until I read that they’ve only built two prototypes and have only a vague hope of starting production in what seems a very aggressive time frame unless they are going to be extremely small volume and high price. I’m watching Audi more closely, the E-Tron seems like a real car that’s not coupled to a cash hemorrhaging cult brand supported by an unprecedentedly patient investor base.

    • Vairship

      Do Audi have a running prototype? I can’t help but notice that their “Tesla killer” is still two to three years from actually showing up in people’s garages. And it has a rather eye watering price. Given that VAG bet the farm on diesels and now have to pivot their entire company to electric (and they don’t have a great track record on reliability of electrics/electronics), I’d rather go with Chevy Bolt (currently available), or Kia Niro EV/Hyundai Kona EV (available in 2019).

  • Dan Mosqueda

    Looking at their employee base on LinkedIn there is a mix of significant experience with a lot of new to automotive personnel. They do have some really amazing people though. They have hired folks from Mitsubishi in Illinois, so they have hired some corporate memory. Some from McLaren, Ford, Lucid, and a lot of PhDs. They seem fundamentally much more serious than Tesla. They been around since 2009.

  • 0A5599

    It will be an interesting experiment to find out whether not having a crazy billionaire at the helm is a good thing or a bad thing for a company like this.

  • GTXcellent

    I really hope so, but my deep down feeling…

    • Gnomical

      All that needs is an electric shaker to turn “Nah” into “Nice!”

  • Maymar

    Isn’t Tesla pretty much the only new manufacturer to break into the marketplace since roughly the ’60’s or ’70s (and not fizzle out almost immediately)? I wish them luck, but I have about 0% faith in their future success until they’ve got cars in production (and once that happens, I’d still wait about 5 years to say they’ll pull it off).

    • 0A5599

      There are a few boutique manufacturers who produce small quantities of very expensive vehicles. Koenigsegg, Pagani, and and McLaren come to mind immediately.

    • P161911

      Hyundai came to the US market in 1986. Kia came along in 1994. Looks like they might make it.

      As far as start from scratch in the US and sell more than a couple of hundred vehicles, I think Kaiser in 1947 was probably the last one.

      • Maymar

        That’s fair – with Hyundai/Kia, they at least had the dual advantages of starting up in South Korea in the 70’s, and borrowing someone else’s car to build (Ford Cortina for Hyundai, Mazda Familia for Kia).

        • smalleyxb122

          And Lotus for Tesla.

      • Kaiser-Frazer was founded in 1945, but Midget Motors started in 1946 and had a pretty good run of around 5000 King Midgets over the course of 24 years. If we want to go with the beginning of production, it’s true Kaiser-Frazer didn’t get going until 1946 (as 1947 models), but then again Midget Motors itself didn’t start producing complete cars until 1947.

        Strictly speaking, however, High Mileage Vehicles sold more than a couple of hundred Freeways (admittedly only around 700) from 1979 to 1982. I wouldn’t call those cars, though, even though some states do.

        • P161911

          I’m not sure that I would call King Midgets cars either.
          Apparently Excaliber made over 3,500 cars over the years, the Avanti II production has to be a few thousand too.

          • Good point with the Excalibur, but I wouldn’t say the Avanti II represents a “start from scratch” so much as a continuation of Studebaker’s efforts. It’s impressive that they stayed in business (well, businesses) for as long as they did and it’s true the later cars don’t have much in common with the originals, but they did begin with the significant advantage of inheriting an existing design, tooling, and initial supply of parts.

      • 0A5599

        I’m not sure what their production numbers are, or where you consider the lower end of “more than a couple hundred”, but Panoz started in ’89. I consider them “from scratch” despite Ford powerplants, since Kaiser counts, too.

        Delorean isn’t completely dead, and may resume production in 2019.

        There are a handful of companies that eventually built a car from scratch, but started off as tuners of products from other manufacturers: Shelby, Saleen, Hennessey, etc.

        • Sjalabais

          I think the original comment was meant to imply something else than, essentially, boutique manufacturers. If you have the right network, access to funds and good engineers, you can build a few cars a year. But making the jump to household name, and at least attempting something like Tesla’s EV-for-the-mid-market is something else entirely. Musk has recently said as much, since the model 3 launch almost broke their neck.

        • P161911

          I would be surprised if Panoz built more than 300 cars total. They have closed their doors after the death of Don Panoz. I’m connected with the head of engineering there on LinkedIn, they laid off the entire engineering and production staff shortly after Petit Le Mans. Zimmer probably had a higher total than Panoz. Probably the single largest model run for Panoz were the Esperante GTS track cars. They built several dozen for a women’s race series and driving schools.

    • Rover 1

      That’s why I hope that Rivian succeeds, I’m sick of running up against one eyed Tesla fanbois prattling on about how wonderful Musk the Wonderboy is.

      • Maymar

        I think you’ll be fine – without anyone else’s help, the tide of public opinion is quickly turning on Musk.

      • Vairship

        Musk definitely has his good sides: electric cars wouldn’t be where they are now without him. But having a few billion dollars to lose definitely helped, and I suspect Rivian won’t have that.

        Musk’s biggest problems are that he’s very much like Trump in personality: the attention span of a fly, inability to accept facts that don’t meet what they want to be the truth, and (as a result) an inability to get along with most knowledgeable people.

        Tesla’s biggest problem will be what to do after Musk: Musk has the drive to start companies, but is not a good leader for established non-exciting companies. And while Tesla is starting to become profitable, they are miles from making so much profit they can finance model replacements on a sustainable basis (the model S is getting rather old). Without Musk, they might end up like MGRover: mildly profitable until they took into account the cash needed to replace the vehicles they were selling.

  • I wish Rivian a lot of luck. They seem to have good people working for them and they have a business plan. I hope it’s a better plan than Elio. He watched Mel Brooks’ The Producers and copied the “you can make more money with a flop than with a hit” business plan. There are a few people in my little town that put up money to reserve an Elio. Still waiting.