Motoring / Cars and Bikes

What Sets Rivian Apart From Tesla

Tesla isn’t the only company rolling out electric vehicles. American startup brand Rivian hopes to deliver what Tesla can’t.

Sep 29, 2021 | By Sarah Ridzwan
rivian electric suv
Image: Rivian

While Tesla is dominating the world of electric vehicles, some people might be put off by their lineup of vehicles, its eccentric CEO Elon Musk, or both. This could be a blessing for rival company Rivian.

The US automaker is focused on electric trucks and SUVs that are expected to go public later this year. A key part of Rivian’s appeal is how different it is from Tesla.

In an interview with CNN Business, drivers who have pre-ordered with Rivian say that the vehicles are better suited for an outdoorsy lifestyle, and have a more conventional, rugged appearance. Some have also said Rivian’s environmental focus seems more sincere and its mission more people-oriented compared to Tesla.

Electric vehicle enthusiasts have said their opinion of Musk had soured over the years. From his controversial tweets to calling a rescue worker in Thailand “pedo guy”, to mocking the Securities and Exchange Commission. The drivers interviewed said they preferred the low-profile Rivian CEO, RJ Scaringe.

“Sometimes Musk can come across as a Bond villain or something, RJ does not give me those vibes,” said Stephen Henken, who has ordered a Rivian R1S.

Scaringe graduated with a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT and founded Rivian in 2009. From then until now, the company has made sure to turn itself into a full-fledged automaker before ever selling a car.

Rivian purchased a former Mitsubishi manufacturing plant in 2017 and the company has raised US$10.5 billion since 2019 from various sources, including giants Amazon and Ford. The company markets itself as an adventure-focused brand. Its mission? To “inspire people to do more of the things they love, while minimizing our impact on the planet”.

Rivian also offers the option to purchase a tent that mounts atop its vehicles and sells specific mounts for bikes, snowboards, skis, kayaks, and surfboards. Other companies such as Ford and Subaru offer similar attachments, while Tesla does not.

rivian first electric vehicle
Image: Rivian

Of course, there’s a risk that Rivian will overpromise and under-deliver. David Kirsch, a professor at the University of Maryland’s business school, said Rivian’s team, product, and investors all look promising, but there are no guarantees it will meet expectations.

“You see concept images of a car, you get excited. You see a facility to build it, you get excited. You see production versions and get more excited,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com. “But none of that means anything once the person buys the car.”

Also happening in car news, Audi Sport has been running tests on its Audi RS Q e-tron in Morrocco in preparation for the Dakar Rally next year in Saudi Arabia. The war was pushed to its extremes in the high temperatures of the desert, along with sandstorms hampering progress.

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