The long, arduous road that Tesla traveled over the past years was recently acknowledged by RJ Scaringe, the 35-year-old CEO of electric vehicle maker Rivian. During a fireside chat at the Automotive News World Congress, Scaringe noted that his 10-year-old company aims to do to pickup trucks and off-road-capable SUVs what Tesla did to the performance and premium automotive segments. That is, he wants Rivian to disprove any untruths that are currently prevalent in the truck and SUV industry.
“I think any great brand … to build a brand that customers are going to be excited about and that customers are going to want to be part of, it has to fundamentally reset expectations. It has to disprove untruths. Tesla took the untruth that electric cars were boring and slow — that they were glorified golf carts — and they disproved that. They showed people that an electric car can be exciting and fun. What we need to disprove is that an electric vehicle can’t get dirty, and that an electric vehicle can’t be rugged, and an electric vehicle can’t go off-road and take your family places, and that an off-road vehicle can’t be good on-road,” he said.
Rivian’s first two vehicles, the R1T pickup truck and the R1S SUV, seem perfectly capable of playing the part. Rivian impressed the EV community and the auto industry when it emerged after 10 years of operating on stealth mode. Both vehicles are well-rounded and refined, created through years of work by a team that included alumni from McLaren (yes, that McLaren). Both have four electric motors that provide immense power and torque, both offer range of over 400 miles per charge, and both are built with intelligent driver-assist features that can transition into full self-driving in the future. During the R1T’s unveiling last November at the historic Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Rivian’s intentions of tapping into the premium EV market were evident.
During his recent fireside chat, Scaringe mentioned that the market Rivian is going for are people who own adventure vehicles and luxury vehicles. In a later statement, Scaringe expressed a point related by Elon Musk during the days of the original Roadster, when he noted that the small, two-door high-performance sports car should perform on the same level as the best fossil fuel-powered cars around. For Scaringe, this same point stands true for the R1T and the R1S.
“We want to get the guy who already has a Range Rover sitting next to a Tesla [in the garage], or the [Jeep] Wrangler sitting next to the [BMW] i3, and grab them with something that was just completely different than what they thought was possible. It will be the best-driving truck or SUV in the world. It must be, because if it’s not, why would somebody pick us over a Ford or over a BMW?” he said.
For now, though, Scaringe noted that Rivian is determined to learn from the experiences of companies like Tesla, while integrating concepts from established automakers such as GM and Toyota. With the successful unveiling of its first vehicles, after all, Rivian is about to tackle one of the hardest parts of being an automaker — actually building cars.
“We do recognize the complexity of assembling and putting vehicles together, of managing a very complex supply chain and logistics network, and we’re very [cognizant] of the nuts and bolts, and of the need to follow a proper process to ensure that, when we launch the vehicle, it can be launched with as few problems, errors, and challenges as possible,” Scaringe said.
When Elon Musk wrote his Master Plan Part Deux, he openly admitted that it is very difficult to become successful in the United States’ auto market. Considering the number of automakers that have gone under, Musk lightly noted that starting a car company is downright idiotic, and starting an electric car company is “idiocy squared.” As foolhardy as the venture might have been, though, Tesla has thrived, driven by an ever-increasing demand for its premium electric cars and energy storage products. The Model 3, the company’s most affordable vehicle to date, has been making a dent in the US’ auto market, becoming the overall best-selling luxury car in the country last year.
It has not been easy for the Silicon Valley-bred carmaker. The Model 3 ramp, for one, is described by Elon Musk as one of the most difficult periods of his career. Musk bet Tesla’s future in the electric sedan, and it took longer than expected to reach the company’s self-imposed production targets. Nevertheless, since hitting its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 per week at the end of Q2 2018, Tesla has steadily improved its footing with the electric car’s production. In Q3 2018, Tesla even posted a profit. The fourth quarter of 2018 might be just as successful.
If Rivian’s strategy so far is any indication, though, the company stands a good chance of avoiding some of the challenges faced by Tesla during the ramps of the original Roadster, the Model S, X, and 3. Rivian, for one, has already secured a facility in Normal, Ill. The company is also working closely on the development of its vehicles’ battery packs. Apart from this, Rivian is also consulting the veterans of the auto industry. In his recent appearance at Autoline After Hours, for one, auto teardown specialist Sandy Munro, who conducted a thorough analysis of the Tesla Model 3, mentioned that Rivian is one of his firm’s clients.