A little-known US car maker promised the electric ute. Now it is valued at more than $100 billion

Before yesterday, most people had never heard of Rivian. Now, it's valued at over $US100 billion — more than General Motors or Ford.

The electric vehicle start-up has only delivered about 150 of its pick-up trucks to customers, but Wall Street is betting on it being the next big player in a sector dominated by Tesla.

Here's what we know about the fledgling car maker that's promising to bring EVs to the great outdoors.

What is Rivian?

Rivian Automotive was founded in 2009 by Robert Scaringe, who goes by RJ Scaringe.

The California-based company makes electric cars, with a focus on SUVs, trucks and vans.

The Rivian badge on a blue car with the US flag behind in lights.
Rivian plans to build at least 1 million cars a year by the end of the decade.(Reuters: Brendan McDermid)

Originally called Mainstream Motors, it was renamed in 2011 as Rivian (derived from "Indian River").

After its highly anticipated debut on the Nasdaq on Wednesday (local time), Rivian became the second most-valuable US car maker after Tesla, which is worth $US1.06 trillion.

Rivian said it lost $US426 million in 2019 and $US1 billion last year.

It reported losing nearly another billion dollars in the first six months of this year. Tesla, which went public in 2010, recorded its first annual profit last year.

Who owns Rivian?

Amazon is Rivian's largest shareholder with a 20 per cent stake in the company.

Ford Motor owns about 12 per cent, and invested half a billion dollars into the company in 2019.

Business magazine Forbes reports chief executive Mr Scargine has a $US1.7 billion stake in Rivian after its first day of trading.

R.J. Scaringe addressed a crowd from a stage with the word Rivian behind him.
Rivian founder and chief exeuctive RJ Scaringe.(Reuters: Mike Blake)

Mr Scaringe, 38, grew up in Melbourne, Florida, and graduated from MIT's Sloan Automotive Lab with a doctorate in mechanical engineering.

The married father-of-three depicts himself as a lover of cars and nature, which plays a big role in Rivian's company image of embracing the American outdoors.

His Twitter and Instagram accounts are full of pictures of Rivian cars being tested in rough terrain, as well as photos of family roadtrips.

What type of cars do Rivian make?

A green SUV on display with a yellow kayak on the roof.
Both of Rivian's car models come with big price tags.(Reuters: Brendan McDermid)

So far, Rivian has two fully electric vehicles — the R1T pick-up truck and the R1S SUV.

The R1T launched in September and is priced from $US67,500 ($92,300).

Rivian has delivered 156 of the electric trucks to customers, mostly to company employees.

The R1S is due to be released in December and is priced from $US75,500 ($103,200).

As of October 31, Rivian had about 55,400 vehicle pre-orders in the United States and Canada.

The company has a contract with Amazon to build 100,000 electric delivery vans at its factory in Illinois.

It plans to open a second factory in the US and eventually set up production in China and Europe.

Rivian also plans to build at least 1 million vehicles a year by the end of the decade.

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Is Rivian a threat to Tesla?

Ezra Beeman, managing director of Energeia, a consulting firm that has modelled Australia's electric vehicle market for government agencies, said light trucks and utes had been the missing link in the EV market. 

Mr Beeman said Rivian was a viable threat to Elon Musk's Tesla.

"I think it has got the lead. Tesla seems to have cracked the passenger car, but to date nobody has had a pick-up truck," he said. 

"It's [Rivian] backed by one of the biggest manufacturers in the world [Ford], and it's got deeper pockets."

But as with all electric cars, the biggest hurdle to reaching buyers is price.

Executive director of American car website Edmunds, Jessica Caldwell, said: "Although the R1T's advantage is that it's first to market and it will likely appeal to a Tesla-type shopper, the long-term volume expectations for a $US70,000+ midsize truck aren't very high."

Blue electric pickup truck on Wall St in New York.
Light trucks and utes are a missing link in the electric vehicle market.(Reuters: Brendan McDermid)


Posted 11 Nov 202111 Nov 2021Thu 11 Nov 2021 at 8:08am, updated 11 Nov 202111 Nov 2021Thu 11 Nov 2021 at 10:34pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp


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