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WGLT, an NPR station in central Illinois, is following every move at the Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois. The electric vehicle startup has gone from stealth mode to big-time player in the auto world, attracting attention (and big money) from companies like Ford and Amazon.

6 New Things We Learned About Rivian This Week

Ryan Denham
A Rivian sign hangs inside the company's Normal manufacturing plant during the recent 48in48 hackathon event, sponsored by United Way of McLean County and State Farm.

Looks like stealth mode is over.

The usually quiet Rivian Automotive made some noise in the past week, as the company revealed lots of new information in at least three media interviews and a press release.

This steady flow of information marks a shift in PR strategy for Rivian, which spent most of 2017—after buying the former Mitsubishi Motors manufacturing plant in Normal—hard at work but not saying much publicly. Now it seems like the electric vehicle startup is ready to share more about its vehicle launch plans and funding.

Here are six things we learned about Rivian in the past week:

Auto Show Debut

Rivian’s first two vehicles—its pickup truck and SUV—will be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. That new information was first revealed in a story by Engadget. The five-passenger truck will be introduced first, in 2020.

The vehicles will be made in Normal, where Rivian already has at least 40 employees. (It must meet certain hiring and investment thresholds to qualify for local and state tax incentives.) The company has 350 employees total, including locations in Michigan and California.

International Money

Up until this week, the public didn’t know much about the investors behind Rivian and its founder and CEO RJ Scaringe. We knew about Sumitomo (the Japanese company with a U.S. operation based in New York) and its “strategic investment,” but that was it.

Credit Staff / WGLT
Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe during a GLT interview.

Rivian announced this week it had secured $200 million of debt financing from Standard Chartered Bank, an international banking group based in London, plus additional money from the investment arm of Abdul Latif Jamee, the Saudi Arabia-based conglomerate that counts transportation among its core businesses.

The Verge reported Wednesday the company had “close to half a billion dollars” in funding. A report in Crain’s Chicago Business pegged it at $450 million.

They’re Fast

In his interview with The Verge, Scaringe—the 35-year-old MIT graduate—said his vehicles will be “really high performance.” The high-end models will have an 800-horsepower electric motor. By comparison, a Toyota Camry—one of the most popular cars in America—tops out at around 300 horsepower.

“(I mean) sub-3-second 0 to 60 (mph),” Scaringe said.

“There are only a few cars in the world that are going to be as fast as ours, and we have a large five-passenger truck,” he told Timothy Seppala at Engadget.

They’re Expensive

Rivian’s truck and SUV won’t exactly be an economy car.

This week’s reports suggest the vehicles will cost at least $50,000. But the company’s long-term plan could mean you don’t need to own a Rivian vehicle to use one regularly. Scaringe has talked extensively about Rivian’s futuristic view of mobility and car ownership, imagining a future where you can request a self-driving Rivian vehicle to come pick you up for a short trip or getaway.


A Rivian spokesperson confirmed this week that the pickup is being referred to as A1T, and the SUV as A1C. But that same spokesperson said the “vehicles have yet to be named.”

Beyond Truck and SUV

This week’s stories also pointed to a Rivian that’s thinking beyond the initial truck and SUV reveal and launch.

Engadget reported Rivian may sell its AI-controlled battery cells to agriculture companies and other businesses. And The Verge uncovered that Rivian’s “next platform” will be a smaller format SUV that will allow the company to enter international markets that prefer smaller vehicles than truck-loving America, such as in Europe and China.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
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