Rivian sets a firm date in 2021 for the launch of its new battery-electric pickups and SUVs as it pushes ahead with renovations to the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL.
The Normal City Council has approved a site plan amendment to complete four separate building expansions totaling 576,000 sq.-ft. (53,500 sq.-m), according to an email from Zach Dietmeier, Rivian’s communications and policy manager in Normal.
The final cost of the project has not been announced because the final expansion is about to go out for bid, he says.
Rivian acquired the Normal plant after Mitsubishi stopped building cars in the underutilized facility at the end of 2016. It has slowly altered the plant, which dates back to the 1980s, for the production of electric vehicles.
The company says it began pilot production on the plant’s assembly line just recently.
“This important milestone brings us another step closer to our full production launch,” Rivian says in a statement. “It also allows us to more precisely estimate delivery timing. The R1T deliveries will begin in June 2021 and the R1S deliveries will begin in August 2021.”
The R1T is Rivian’s battery-electric pickup truck while the R1S (below, left) is an all-electric, off-road-capable SUV.
Rivian has 370 employees at the factory and plans call for employing over 1,000 people by the end of 2021, Dietmeier says. He says Rivian has made no announcements about suppliers or systems. But the projected staffing level suggests the company expects to depend on suppliers to ship built-up subsystems to the plant for final assembly.
Amy Mast, Rivian’s director of public relations, says in a separate e-mail that the company is investing in its operations in Plymouth, MI; Southern California; and Silicon Valley as it prepares for its market debut.
“We are just now finishing an expansion in Michigan that doubles our space for design and engineering and other functions,” Mast says. “We’re not leaving Michigan, though we are in the process of consolidating some teams (and spaces) in California.”
Rivian is building a 190,000 sq.-ft. (17,650 sq.-m) office building in Southern California, which is set to open this year and is described as the company’s new headquarters. Rivian says it currently uses several buildings in Irvine, CA, and Carson, CA, to house its integration engineers, battery team, power inverter team, customer experience and other functions.
The company’s website also notes, “We are currently in construction on a 90,000-sq.-ft. (8,360-sq.-m) office in Palo Alto” in Silicon Valley to house teams from San Jose and Palo Alto that will develop the software and vehicle electronics to be used in Rivian vehicles.
The activity in Silicon Valley has caught the attention of rival BEV maker Tesla, which has filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County accusing Rivian of pirating four employees and of stealing trade secrets.
The employees, each of whom is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, also are accused of stealing secrets, according to court documents.
“Misappropriating Tesla's competitively useful confidential information when leaving Tesla for a new employer is obviously wrong and risky,” Tesla’s complaint against Rivian and the four ex- employees states. “One would engage in that behavior only for an important benefit – to use it to serve the competitive interests of a new employer.”
Rivian denies Tesla’s accusations. “We admire Tesla for its leadership in resetting expectations of what an electric car can be. Rivian is made up of high-performing, mission-driven teams, and our business model and technology are based on many years of engineering, design and strategy development,” Rivian says in a statement.
“This requires the contribution and know-how of thousands of employees from across the technology and automotive spaces. Upon joining Rivian, we require all employees to confirm that they have not, and will not, introduce former employers’ intellectual property into Rivian systems. This suit’s allegations are baseless and run counter to Rivian’s culture, ethos and corporate policies,” the statement says.
Estimates are Rivian has built up a war chest of more than $6 billion to finance the launch of its new BEVs. The total includes a recently completed $2.5 billion from an investment round led by T. Rowe Price, and including Amazon and Ford, Rivian says.