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Rivian Delays EV Launches Until 2021

Coronavirus pushes plans back for Rivian’s electric pickup and SUV
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Even under the best of conditions, new vehicle launches frequently get pushed back due to design and manufacturing complexities. To put it mildly, there are a lot of moving parts.  

The situation is compounded when it involves a startup. Just ask Tesla, which has been plagued by production delays for years—up until this year’s launch of the Model Y.

These are not normal times. Far from it. The auto industry—and most other non-essential manufacturers—have halted production and other operations to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

New Normal, For Now

Plymouth, Mich.-based Rivian Automotive shut its facilities on March 20. But the company still believed it could meet its target for launching two electric trucks—the R1T pickup and R1S SUV—by year-end.  

Rivian RT1

Rivian RT1 (Image: Rivian)

That timeline is no longer possible. Rivian officials now tell the Chicago Times that the vehicles won’t debut until sometime next year, depending on how long government-mandated shutdowns last. The outbreak of the pandemic isn’t expected to peak in Illinois until at least the end of April.

"The world has changed a lot in these last few weeks," the company said in a letter to customers. "This evolving new reality is not without impact on our program timing. While we expect some level of delay, we are working to minimize the disruption to our launch schedule."

Construction Slowdown

The carmaker had planned to hire thousands of employees to staff its Normal, Ill., assembly plant. Rivian is in the process of retooling and converting the former Mitsubishi facility, which it acquired in 2016, for EV production.

Current activities are limited to a skeleton maintenance crew of 11 Rivian employees and about 60 electrical contractors. That’s 71 workers in a 2.6 million-sq-ft facility, which works out to about 36,600 sq ft per person.

Social distancing shouldn’t be a problem. Neither should money.

Big Backers

The startup, which was formed in 2010 by CEO R.J. Scaringe, has raised more than $3.5 billion from investors. This include $1.3 billion in December in a funding round led by T. Rowe Price. Amazon, Ford and Cox Automotive also are major backers—Ford and Amazon both plan to use Rivian’s “skateboard” chassis for future EVs.

Rivian has said that it will pay all hourly and salaried employees in full during the coronavirus hiatus.

In the meantime, Rivian continues to take pre-orders for the pricey EVs. And you can check out the status of the assembly plant (as of last week) in the video above.

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