Motorists waiting to receive one of Rivian’s first electric trucks will need to muster more patience. The Amazon- and Ford-funded company announced it won’t begin delivering the R1T and the R1S until 2021 at the very earliest.
Rivian, like a vast majority of the automakers operating in the United States, idled its entire manufacturing network in March to fight the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. The stay-at-home order came at the worst possible time for the relatively young firm. It was in the process of retooling the factory it purchased from Mitsubishi in Normal, Illinois, to convert it into a state-of-the-art plant capable of churning out thousands of battery-powered off-roaders annually.
The company stressed that it’s working to minimize the disruption to its launch schedule, but it also confirmed it won’t start series production of the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV in 2020 as originally planned. Both are now scheduled to reach reservation holders in 2021, though there’s no word yet on whether deliveries will start early or late in the year.
The retooling process continues at a snail’s pace. “There are 11 Rivian employees there in 2.6 million square feet,” company spokeswoman Amy Mast told The Chicago Tribune. She added there are also about 60 contractors performing electrical work in the plant while maintaining proper distance. The good news is that every employee regardless of whether they’re on salary or paid hourly is receiving full pay during the shut-down.
Rivian published a progress report on its official YouTube channel in early April, though it shot the footage before it sent its workers home. The three-minute flick suggests the scope of the remodeling project is huge; nearly every part of the factory is getting a complete makeover. The empty halls visible in the video will soon house heavy machinery capable of shaping metal and plastic into a truck, and I expect pre-production will begin before the end of 2020.
Ford-owned Lincoln plans to release a Rivian-based electric SUV in about 2022. There’s no word yet on whether the yet-unnamed model has been delayed, too, or if it’s not affected because it’s not due out for several years. Similarly, it’s too early to tell whether Amazon will need to wait longer than planned to receive the 100,000 vans it ordered.