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Rivian Delays First Launch Vehicles Until September, Pledges Better Communication With Customers

Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe speaks at an Uptown Normal event in 2019.
Megan McGowan
Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe speaks at an Uptown Normal event in 2019.

Rivian’s founder and CEO said Friday his company needs to do a better job of communicating with customers about when they’ll get their vehicles, after another launch delay.

In a letter to customers, RJ Scaringe said the first electric pickups (R1T) will now be delivered in September, instead of this month. (They were originally slated to be delivered in June.) The electric SUVs (R1S) will follow “shortly thereafter in the fall,” Scaringe wrote. Those vehicles, as well as commercial delivery vans, will be made in Normal.

The biggest reason for the delay, Scaringe said, were “cascading impacts of the pandemic have had a compounding effect greater than anyone anticipated.”

“Everything from facility construction, to equipment installation, to vehicle component supply (especially semiconductors) has been impacted by the pandemic,” Scaringe wrote. “Beyond these unforeseen challenges, launching three new vehicles while setting up a multi-vehicle manufacturing plant is a complex orchestra of coordinated and interlinked activities where small issues can translate into ramp delays.”

Semiconductor chip shortages have caused production issues for other automakers too. During the height of the pandemic, demand for cars dropped off. Now, that demand is racing back, leaving manufacturers struggling to beef up supply of needed microchips.

Launch delays have also been common at Tesla, the EV pioneer and market leader.

Scaringe acknowledged that “we need to do a better job at communicating specifics around deliveries.” He said the company was also planning a “multi-city, multi-format drive program set to roll out in September.”

Rivian now has about 2,135 employees in Normal, a spokesperson said, making it one of McLean County’s largest employers virtually overnight. They’ve built hundreds of validation (or test) vehicles that have been spotted on U.S. roads. The plant has two separate production lines currently making vehicles, one for the R1 vehicles (initially R1T and R1S) and one for our commercial vans, according to Scaringe.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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