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Production Begins: Rivian Electric Truck First To Market

R1T production
Rivian is pitching its R1T electric pickup to an affluent market, able to afford the initial $73,000 cost.

Rivian has passed a significant milestone with the start of commercial production of its R1T electric pickup trucks.

A video was posted online early Tuesday apparently showing the first truck rolling off the line at Rivian's Normal manufacturing plant, with workers gathered around. RJ Scaringe, founder and CEO of the California-based company, tweeted later Tuesday to make it official.

"After months of building pre-production vehicles, this morning our first customer vehicle drove off our production line in Normal! Our team's collective efforts have made this moment possible. Can't wait to get these into the hands of our customers!" Scaringe tweeted.

“It’s a good day in Normal to have the Rivian truck in full production. We’ve all been anticipating this moment for a long time and here it is,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos.

Rivian twice delayed the start of production because of pandemic-related supply chain issues that have affected many automakers. The R1T is the first electric pickup on the market. Yet that segment of the field will soon be crowded.

“It is a competitive environment, but Rivian has shown they do quite well in that environment. Of course, it’s going to be hard, but vehicles are coming off the line and that’s the next step for them,” said Koos.

Tesla has delayed its Cybertruck until 2022, and the electricFord F-150 also will hit the market next year. Another startup, Lordstown in Ohio, has had more significant delays and capitalization difficulties. Rivian has chosen to market its pickup, costing roughly $73,000, to affluent buyers who are making a lifestyle choice, though a less expensive model will come out next year.

Rivian also plans to bring its SUV model (R1S) to market in the coming months, and it's begun production of Amazon delivery vans. Amazon was an early investor in Rivian, and a customer: Rivian is making 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon.

Rivian has invested about $1.5 billion in the plant in Normal and currently has about 2,500 workers with the potential for 4,000-5,000. The company also just filed for an initial public offering of stock to capitalize at roughly $70 billion. Pending Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval, that could happen in late November.

Rivian also has announced plans to build a second factory in the southwest. Texas has offered significant inducements in the range of $440 million to locate near Fort Worth. The company is in less advanced discussion for a factory in England or elsewhere in Europe, too.

Community reaction

Tuesday’s news was welcome at Heartland Community College in Normal, which launched its Associate of Applied Science degree in Electric Vehicle Technology in part to train Rivian workers.

“We’re very excited,” said Heartland spokesperson Steve Fast. “We’re pleased to see that things are moving along, and that Rivian has been meeting the benchmarks that they’ve promised to our community as far as production and employment.”

The associate’s degree program is the first step toward a broader EV training initiative at Heartland. A $7.5 million state grant will help the college establish the Electric Vehicle–Energy Storage Manufacturing Training Academy, or EVES. That’s expected to open in 2023.

Fast said it’s not just about Rivian.

“As we look at the goals of our entire region in central Illinois, we see that advanced manufacturing will take the center of what we see in job opportunities in this area,” he said. “We are well positioned geographically to help out with a number of industry needs for advanced manufacturing. And we are also well positioned for having the potential workforce here.

“Rivian is of course a very welcome and a very large contributor to what will be our growing economy but we also have partnerships with Brandt, with Caterpillar, G3 Machining, and others that are in development, yet to come — they are letting us know what they think they will need from the workforce, and we are working to plan accordingly for that,” Fast said.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
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