Rivian CEO Discusses Automaker’s 10-Year History: Silence Is Golden

FEB 5 2019 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 63

Rivian is hot, hot, hot right now, and for good reason.

It seems everyone wants to interview Rivian CEO and founder RJ Scaringe. We admit we’re not surprised by this whatsoever. The new startup automaker came out of the woodworks recently and unveiled some pretty stellar electric vehicles: the R1T electric pickup truck and the R1S SUV. Unlike many other failing EV startups, Rivian decided to get all its ducks in a row prior to exposing itself to the world. Of course, there are always leaks, so we knew ahead of time that the new automaker had aggressive and highly developed plans.

Rivian worked covertly for some 10 years after Scaringe started the company. In that time, they opened multiple offices/facilities globally, worked on securing suppliers, racked up financing, and bought a huge and functional production facility.

Autonews was next in line to interview the charismatic, intelligent, and forward-thinking CEO. We share some solid morsels here. If you want to read the entire interview, follow the source link at the bottom of the page.

Scaringe told Autonews:

We actually started in 2009 with a 2+2 hybrid coupé.

With the 2+2 coupé, I raised a small amount of capital. I had 20 people on a small team, and then after about two and a half years at the end of 2011, we got to a fork in the road. We could continue down that path, hoping something changes, unlock the capital and then scale up. Or shelve it all, and use those lessons to rethink the business. I shelved it, then began the process of thinking hard about why we exist. Nothing else matters if you can’t answer that. I didn’t believe in the business – there was a gap.

Scaringe is an extremely intelligent man with a ton of experience and insight. Much like the situation for Tesla, times ahead will prove ridiculously difficult. We can’t even imagine the push back that will come when and if Rivian goes public. Scaringe is well aware of what’s ahead. He told Autonews:

It’s been really hard to get here – much harder than I thought it would be.

You look at the costs for a car company – you need huge capital, a large team, and everything costs. You need many hundreds of suppliers and then a product to attract customers – and then you need time. Even if you had everything in place at the start, it’d take four or five years. It’s challenging. We started a company with none of those things.

Will Rivian be able to pull it off? Please share your opinion with us in the comment section or head on over to our Rivian R1T sub-forum here.

11 photos
Rivian R1T

Source: Autonews

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63 Comments on "Rivian CEO Discusses Automaker’s 10-Year History: Silence Is Golden"

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Sure hope they pull it off. Seems to me they’ve been diligent in terms of preparation, and the SUV/truck market couldn’t be any better.

The Tesla saga shows there is a neigh endless valley of death to navigate before any chance of profits and stability. Also shows it’s best to find private funding to avoid an army of shorts undermining you every step of the way…Also shows how it helps if the incumbents show no interest in doing what you do, giving you a decade or so head start. That last bit is not likely, at the very least it will have Tesla to compete against and I’m sure at some point Ford will take a moment to look up from milking that F-series cash cow and wonder if it needs to do something to future proof things a bit at all.

That said it has some very compelling product concepts that are getting a lot of love going for it! Should be a head scratcher for even Tesla how to top that.

Actually, Ford has already stated that an electric f150 is on its way. Also look out for GM it looks like they are moving in fast.

[sarcasm]I’m sure VW has too….[/sarcasm]

Please Ford has no real plans. They just knew enough to know they had to say something.

Look out for the big, bad legacy auto with it’s perpetual “2 years out” or “sometime in 2020” mantra for new EV products. If GM is moving in fast for EV’s, then consider my fat arse a 100-meter sprinter.

GM recently mention an EV pickup, but a few months earlier they had said they weren’t doing an EV pickup. My hunch is they are very early in development. Most likely they will develop something people won’t be willing to pay money for. If they make an EV pickup, they need to make it better than their best pickup if they expect people to pay a premium.

Ford and GM may just be paying lip service to the future EV pickup, much like VW’s weekly EV announcements. At least VW is showing prototypes. If Ford or GM were anywhere near a working prototype, I think they would roll it out at the auto shows to demonstrate that they could be selling an EV truck. It is a great strategy for blunting enthusiasm for your competitors product and you don’t have to prove that your product is better. It is basically the same strategy the legacy companies used against Tesla. Tell everyone you could make a better car because you have been doing it for 100 years.

I have no Doubt he will be successful. He has done so much with his product it will be a hit when it launches. I just wish I could afford one!

Cuff Watson Hopper III

From everything I’ve seen so far from all automakers the R1T has my vote !! It just oozes quality and a we’ll thought out build ! Wish I had that kind of money to get on board and grab one of those beautiful trucks when they do come out to the consumer !!!

One thing is certain is that it will accelerate the transition to sustainable transportation.

Having Rivian around could maybe diffuse attention on Tesla from the FUDsters and shorters, and help people realize the future is EVs

EV to ICE cost parity is just around the corner. Maybe the traditional ICE big 3 auto manufacturers are concerned about Tesla, but as Rivian reminds them, there are also many other new EV companies lined up.

Is Rivian a quoted company? If it is privately held then the Shorters and their fiddling with the stock price is irrelevant.
For me, the Rivian design shows so much original thinking it is stunning. I hope they succeed.

It’s a private company.

America is definitely ready for an EV truck. GM and Ford are about to be in some serious trouble. I don’t blame Scaringe for keeping this hush hush through development. I only wish it was a publicly traded company. I’m curious to see if Elon will speed up development of a truck after these start selling like hotcakes.

Rivian plan on producing 50,000 vehicles by 2025 (25k R1Ts, 25k R1Ss?) so there really isn’t much pressure on the big three at the moment from them. Nor will there be from Tesla if their prices are similar to their released products.

Sure, in the short term, Rivian can’t possibly rival major auto makers in terms of volume. But then, you could say the same about Tesla in its early years; even now, Tesla has only one high-volume model.

But the market leaders which emerge at the end of a disruptive tech revolution are the ones which successfully plan for the long term — not the short term. The dustbin of history is filled with auto makers which failed to adapt to changing markets. The dustbin is going to get several more over the coming 10-15 years, as EV models replace most gasmobile models in first-world countries… and in China, too.

Altho come to think of it, in 10-15 years, it may be appropriate to call China a first-world country, instead of a developing nation. In aggregate, China now has the world’s 2nd largest economy, but on a per-capita basis it’s still a developing nation.

The last bastion of butt-headedness in transportation is hobbyist pickup truck owners — the people who could get by just fine with an SUV or a wagon or (gasp!) a sedan, but by a pickup just because they want one. This makes Rivian’s path ahead even tougher, but it also makes it even more critical that they succeed.

If Rivian can bring these vehicles to market and have good or better success, relative to expectations, then it will throw Ford, GM, and FCA into a frenzy of activity, mostly good. (Some will be endless PR stunts trying to discredit Rivian, of course, but most will be their new religion about electric trucks.)

An electric Toyota Tacoma would be a game changer.

The game has already changed. Toyota just hasn’t realized it yet.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

Yeah, God forbid people opt to buy a vehicle you don’t approve of.

But I have to breath the exhaust

Solution for that: plumb it into the Cab!

Electric is the new diesel. I feel sorry for all those “coal rollers” once these trucks hit the road. No comparison when it comes to power output and delivery…instant torque and precise crawl-speed control with no clutch/torque converter is where old-school truck heads will find their ICE trucks are totally incompetent.

That is why the electric F150 is all over the auto/truck magazines now…just type it in to a search…

I have followed these people for quite some time, I think where they have a real decent chance to make it , is that they have been pretty solid on their financials, they spend money where it needs to be spent, but they definitely do not fritter it away on frivolous tangents. They generate a little bit of revenue on things other companies probably don’t pay attention to, like excess stamping capacity, etc.

What might be in question, they originally were projecting 50k annual volume per model and I’m not sure that’s going to generate enough sustainable revenue going forward. But they do seem to have a very serious thought out business model and I wish them the very best on becoming a successful niche player in EV’s.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

What is Scaringe’s background?

Does he have a history of successful startups?

Or even ones that were booted up and sold later for a profit?

Other than MIT’s Sloan Automotive Laboratory, he has been studying the car industry for over 15 years. I could not find that he has had any other jobs after getting his Ph.D.

Google him and Rivian and report back to us the answers to your questions.

Rivian will kickstart how an electric car
Company should be
Go take the world by Storm
Make it show it buy it !
Full sail . . . .
Andreas 415

I am very tempted to reserve a Rivian pickup truck. But as an existing Tesla owner, I also want to see their pickup truck before making an actual commitment.

Omg, how could you… You should definitely put a deposit for pickup and Model Y. It’s your birth right as a Tesla owner 🙂

I like them already. They deserve support and I hope they rock this world like T is doing.

Yeah. This is a company that I want to root for. This is a company which has quietly been building its assets and its in-house expertise to the point that the company actually has a realistic shot at success, and it’s done all of that in stealth mode. How very, very different from sham companies like Faraday Future and Lucid, which claimed (and are still claiming) to have the moon when they don’t have anything at all!

Would that more startups were run this way.

Go Rivian!

Hopefully eventually they create power beyond a battery to power an electric vehicle. Need to find a way to refuel easily safely and QUICKLY. Right now its still to impractical for what I need. SUV electric could be nice but 100000 I can buy 4 of our Durangos. I also tow with a diesel a 30 foot travel trailer. And I may go 6 to 8 hours stopping once for fuel. I can do without all the spaceage look make it light practical. I dont need it to be a mainframe just a solid performer.

I Bet your description would not be the first who said that. I have a Co-worker that tows a 10,000 Lb Trailer, with his F150, too. He would like to see what Tesla can do for him!

I suspect that a Competitive F150 Killer, in an EV, will need higher power and energy density cells, for less money, than are OK for the Model 3, to get a strong Pickup, at under $50,000, in Decent EV Form.

In the meantime, Elon will toss his Pickup hat into the ring, about this Summer, and see if it gets any bites!

Tesla can’t do anything for your co-worker. The X can only go 120 miles with a small trailer. That isn’t enough range to get you between superchargers when on a road trip. The Rivian will be a ICE killer because they are developing their own battery tech…exclusive access to the density required.

Even Elon has hit a roadblock (puntended) when it comes to battery tech…I read that Tesla purchased an upstart electrical storage company specializing in really exotic and expensive tech that can get the density where it needs to be for high performance and long range.

Rivian said they go to about half range at 11000lb towed. Your trailer would be about 3/4 of that. So about 250 miles range or 3 to 4 hours driving. One stop to recharge will get you there.
Of course that one stop could be a while if you only have a 50kw charger available.

You would have to stop at a Tesla supercharger or a Porsche charging station…400v and 800v will fill the battery in under an hour.

Range is definitely an issue, I was interested in the Tesla X but I have a 5200 lb trailer. The X can only pull a 2000 lb trailer for about 120 miles at best…that review was done with a low profile pop-up. I have a 12′ tall toy hauler…a big sail/parachute. I ended up getting a Porsche Cayenne…similar performance, superior towing (actually I think the Cayenne is vastly superior to the X…except for the tailpipe stinking). I think the reason Ford and GM won’t be able to dominate the EV market with trucks is because they don’t own their own battery and controller tech…the reason Tesla and Rivian can get any range out of their vehicles is because they are focused on battery and ev tech ONLY, to the same degree that Ford/GM are invested in ICE tech. Ford/GM will have to purchase/license the tech from someone else. Even Porsche owns their own EV tech, they purchased Rimac before getting serious about their Taycan EV. That is why Porsche has a better charging rate of 800v compared to Tesla…in-house development. It is the work of Tesla and Porsche that will enable the success of Rivian; this is because you’ll be… Read more »

They will succeed in getting an electric pickup to market for us to buy, but it may not be theirs. I hope they do fully succeed as I’d really like to have one parked in my garage, my wife does also!

I like their style from top to bottom, they will succeed because they obviously think things through rather than dive in and react to shortcomings. I honestly think that Rivian will hit the ground running with a high quality product that will be it’s own best advertising….would love to see what the car was they previously worked on?

I’ve tried hard to find a photo of the prototype that Avera Motors (which became Rivian) developed with the help of Florida State funding, some years back (December 2010). But Rivian has been remarkably successful at keeping photos off the internet, other than a few shots of a car draped in a shroud. It was described in one article, by a reporter who actually saw it driven onto a stage, as a “little blue hatchback”… but no pictures allowed!

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-xpm-2010-12-13-os-cfb-cover-avera-20101213-story.html

Here’s the closest I could find to an actual Reveal:

https://icdn2.digitaltrends.com/image/rivianautomotive-001-blog_crp-720×720.jpg?ver=1.jpg

I like the two Rivian prototypes.

However, Rivian does seem to have a checkered past according to this article: http://thecapitolist.com/questions-about-shady-car-company-plague-mayfield-in-sd17-race/

I’ll be doing some more research on them.

I would not consider their past checkered at all, the little bit of funding they got in Florida helped lay the groundwork for something new, I give them huge credit and positives for realizing they needed to change direction to move on to pure EV’s but they did have a small working r&d group and had a r&d prototype vehicle.

It’s seriously not that they ran off with any money, those original funds definitely went to auto related development. They just started down the wrong path at first.

There were a lot of Florida taxpayers mad at what was then Avera Motors for using taxpayer money to fund the company, and develop a prototype… then the company left for Michigan to buy a mothballed auto assembly plant and start working towards actual manufacture. And there were a lot of Florida newspapers which attacked Avera Motors for doing so.

The people who ran Avera said that they did fulfill the contract they had with the State of Florida, and did pay salaries there to Floridians as part of the work.

I don’t personally think I have sufficient information on what actually happened to have an informed opinion as to the ethics or morality of the actions of the company. I will say that running a successful automotive startup in the USA is very, very hard, and that sometimes business plans have to be changed.

For the record, Avera only changed its name (to Rivian) because of a threatened lawsuit. So it wasn’t a case of changing its name in an attempt to leave behind a negative public image.

This is what we do know: Florida government is totally garbage…we know that they banned the words “climate change” and so I can extrapolate from that tidbit that the govt probably did a bunch of shady stuff and made baseless claims after Avera met the requirements of the Florida deal before making important financial decisions, like purchasing an old factory instead of building a new one in Florida.

As for government spending on technology that doesn’t necessarily go anywhere or become a product? Ever heard of DARPA? Or Solyndra? it is the norm that most startups fail, whether financed by private entities or by governments.

All it will take is one of the 45 top oil producing countries to have a revolution and immediately will be at five dollars a gallon for gas. GM Ford Chrysler will be crying that they need help because it’s not their fault they’re just stupid.

Hope they make it against the big guys, love to to get a pick up like that

Hope they make it against the big guys,sweet ride love to have one

When is the public going to be able to purchase the Rivian truck.

The question is how will they compete when they don’t have the scale of GF1 etc. It will be harder to attract investment to scale the business when they have to compete with the Tesla pickup and no doubt a plethora of trucks from the big guys eventually.

If they want to survive they should stay boutique. At smaller scale, they can be more nimble in production, offer better customization and service and offer a better quality product.

Give them time. Tesla didn’t have a Gigafactory when it started making the Model S, either. Rivian shouldn’t have problems getting sufficient battery supply for the number of EVs they’ll be able to make in the first few years of production.

Time enough to worry about that when Rivian starts gearing up to make its first high-volume model.

I applaud Rivian for their announced product. When will it deliver?
The market should have lots of e-pickups to choose from by 2025.. How will Rivian differentiate?
Every car maker has now learned from Tesla to start expensive and expand to mass market. Starting expensive, means having all the features Rivian has… Rivian may need to get a Megafactory of their own. Will a kilafactory be enough.?

Product is very well planned and the concept vehicles are great. With all of the design, engineering, and procurement in place the most important is the production (assembly) of safe quality vehicles with a new work force. Hope the best for Rubicam

I confirmed my confidence with a $1,000 deposit.

Do these people expect Ford or Jeep owners to ditch their vehicles for a Rivian? Has anyone bothered to ask? Who’s going to sell and service it?

I’m a past Wrangler, Range Rover, Lr3 owner. Currently have a Volt but debating on picking up a new Jeep Gladiator truck. I would gladly pick the Rivian if it was comparably priced. The thought of going back to a gas truck/SUV has me annoyed but I want something more capable. The Rivian wouldn’t be comparable to a Wrangler but it looks to be capable enough to bridge the gap. Just can’t justify the cost.

As is the case with Tesla, Rivian doesn’t have to attract every buyer in the entire market. They only have to sell as many EVs as they can make.

No one model of a passenger vehicle can ever possibly satisfy the entire market. Why do so many EV advocates write as if every new model of EV has to appeal to everyone?

These are definitely aimed at a smaller, pricier market than 90% of pickup trucks sold…not trying to replace Wranglers, Tacomas, Avalanche, etc.

These are not aimed at current owners of trucks that are lower priced than the Rivian asking price. While the truck market remains to be developed, the luxury SUV market is one of the hottest right now. My Porsche Cayenne was $87k when new…worth every penny. Look how many Cayennes, Mercedes G and M wagons, BMW X5/X6s, and Tesla Xs there are on the roads…especially here in California. Hyper performing/Hyper priced SUVs are flying off the shelves.

What remains to be seen is if you can find enough heavy-duty pickup truck owners are looking to move to EV. Most truck owners don’t use their truck to do anything “truck-like,” they just like to drive a tall, mean, brutish vehicle….and most of those “toy trucks” like F150s, cost less than $40k. So, that is NOT the market that Rivian is aiming for. It is hard to find any pickup truck that hits $60k, unless they are being used as 5th wheel trailer haulers, or serious for-profit work/fleet vehicles. The real market for the pickups seems to be construction crews, plumbing/electrical vehicles, and utilities like PGE…imagine if the next time they refreshed their fleet they went with a Rivian!!

I beleive this is the much needed jump start to get the ball rolling. I also think they’ll do good as a business. Enviromentally wise it’s of great impact. And even though the announced pricing is a little expensive I think it’s, more than worth it. Hope they push through and keep innovating the market while helping the planet, make money and deliver us an excelent and much needed product. Keep up the good work.

I think that keeping it under $100k is key to their success. Tesla X models can easily get over $100k and people are still buying them!!! The truck market won’t be as eager to move to EV as the lux-SUV market is. The biggest seller in Germany for Porsche is their e-Hybrid drivetrain…something like 80% of all sales of Panamera and Cayenne.

For the record, Porsche diesel sales made up only 12%…even before the VW diesel software scandal.

There’s no guarantee that Rivian can become a success; the new car market is extremely competitive, and Tesla is the only new auto maker in the U.S. in more than 50 years to succeed.

However, I truly believe Rivian has a realistic shot at success. They have, as the article says, all their ducks in a row, in a way which no other wannabe EV maker has. Not Lucid, not Atlis, not Bollinger, not Via Motors, not even Workhorse — and certainly not Faraday Future!

Disruptive tech revolutions, such as the EV revolution, do create opportunities for new players in markets. Tesla has already demonstrated that the EV revolution has created opportunities. Here’s hoping that Rivian will become the second EV startup to find real success!

Go Rivain!

So what ever happened with that 2011 prototype car? Looks intriguing from what I can tell. Can’t find any images of it fully uncovered though. It could make a great Tesla Roadster competitor if they ever revived that project.