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Land Rover meets Tesla: What you need to know about Rivian, the EV-maker that went public last week

(source: Asia One)

The name Rivian may not ring a bell to even the most fanatic petrolheads in Singapore, who generally skew towards German and Japanese brands.

If recent events are anything to go by, though, not for much longer. An amalgam of "Indian River" (where Rivian CEO, RJ Scaringe, frequently rowed in his youth), the Californian start-up is making especially huge waves in the industry after it debuted with the highest Initial Public Offering (IPO) of 2021 last week. Here's what you need to know about the company.

It's not entirely brand new, and its first car was vastly different from the electric trucks you see in the banner

Recent buzz might have casual onlookers thinking that Rivian is a brand new namesake. There is technically some truth to this statement, but not for the reasons one might imagine; the company had already been founded by its CEO way back in 2009 - immediately post-financial crisis - but as Mainstream Motors (a far less compelling badge to plaster on a car). It went through one more name change before reaching its final evolution stage as Rivian Automotive officially.

CEO RJ Scaringe - or Dr RJ Scaringe - graduated from MIT with a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering
PHOTO: Rivian

More surprisingly, Scaringe and his team didn't initially set out to produce Rivian's current lineup, and instead had grand plans for... a sports car. Ultimately, of course, the course was changed (Scaringe mentions in an interview that he realised he "wasn't answering the fundamental question of why the world needs this company to be successful").

Still, it's already blown past the market caps of most legacy carmakers in one week of going public

We've briefly gotten into the notion of market caps before (which are more reflective of anticipation of a company's prospects rather than its current performance) and need to first underline that Rivian hasn't yet started production at scale. By the end of 2021, only 1,200 Rivians will have rolled off the assembly line.

With its staggering market cap, Rivian currently places among the five most valuable carmakers.
PHOTO: Rivian

Still, by debuting with an IPO of more than USD$100billion, the EV-maker stunned even the most liberal estimates by instantly blowing past legacy carmakers both at home (Ford, General Motors) as well as abroad (BMW Group, Honda).

In fact, as of the time of writing, its market cap is sitting pretty at USD$131.94 billion (S$179 billion), higher than Daimler's (Mercedes-Benz's parent group). Only Tesla and Toyota place significantly further ahead, while VW Group and Chinese-giant BYD are very close neighbours.

Things might surely change in the future given the votality of market caps but the message now is clear: The future is well and truly electric. At least according to the stock market.

It's got some huge names backing it

Possibly the strongest reason why Rivian has gotten such a following is because of the names that have invested very big sums of cash, very publicly, into the company.

Chief among Rivian's investors is Amazon with a massive 20 per cent stake. As part of the American conglomerate's shift towards carbon neutrality, the next few years, up till decade-end, will see Rivian producing an entire fleet of electric delivery vans for Amazon's use.

Amazon's stake in Rivian is tied to an order of 100,000 electric vans, to be delivered by decade-end.
PHOTO: Rivian

Another big name that has sunk its own money into the start-up is Ford (rival General Motors pulled out after initial talks), one of the biggest carmakers in the USA. Presumably, it also wants a slice of Rivian's tech pie.

It's the first automaker to build a production all-electric truck, and on a 'skateboard' platform that can be shared

Part of the reason why Rivian has garnered so much attention is because it appears poised to be the first carmaker to produce an electric truck en masse. The R1T ute has already gotten glowing reviews from a few motoring sites, boding well for its luxury-SUV sibling, the R1S. Contrarily, deliveries for Tesla's Cybertruck and Ford's F150 Lightning have yet to commence.

Rivian's calling card is a potentially revolutionary 'skateboard platform' (pictured on assembly line).
PHOTO: Rivian

In the vein of the platform-sharing utilised by the world's most successful carmakers, Rivian's electric trucks are built on a common 'skateboard chassis', which can be stretched and retooled with a combination of battery packs and motors for different uses. Supposedly, this helps to facilitate sharing not only across the two existing models within the company (as well as the Amazon delivery van), but outside of it as well.

This latter point may sound very noble prima facie, but Rivian could potentially benefit from such an approach if it succeeds in convincing others to take up the tech. An ideal situation would see both sides winning: Rivian rakes in profits from licensing the platform and sinking its roots deeper into the supply chain part of the industry, while its competitors save up the cash from researching and developing their own platforms, instead diving straight into production.

It's unlikely the brand will come to Singapore anytime soon… or so we think

The R1T is Rivian's current star, and has already gotten glowing reviews from a few motoring sites.
PHOTO: sgCarMart

Between the two models Rivian currently produces, the R1T pickup truck has taken up more space in the spotlight and currently stands as the face of the company.

Unless you're an MRT-only devotee, you'll probably know that Singapore doesn't really have the taste for pickup trucks - at least not in the way the USA does. Whereas the American market treats them as hallowed daily drivers, here in Singapore, they're largely seen as utilitarian workhorses. Even 'lifestyle' pickups like the Jeep Gladiator or Ford Ranger have to be registered with G-starting license plates.

Aside from the fact that Rivian currently doesn't seem to be targeting Asia Pacific, we think that the Singaporean market just isn't hospitable enough for a dealer to take the financial risk.

Could the R1S give Range Rovers and Jeep's more road-centric SUVs a run for their money?
PHOTO: sgCarMart

Things might surely change, though, especially if the more car-like R1S (it's about the length of an S-Class) gains a cult following overseas a la Tesla's Model-everythings. Based on its clean looks, impressive specs and promises of practicality (a seven-seater version will be available), the SUV already looks like it could give Land Rovers, heck, even Range Rovers a run for their money.

Rivian's all-electric roots also mean that it probably has the higher ground in terms of battery tech, and is likely to easily coast past the VES surcharges (although certainly not the ARF) that brands like Land Rover and Jeep are still mostly saddled with in Singapore. But these are very big 'if's.

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