Rivian pushes ahead with production despite supply chain problems

NORMAL, Ill. — As vehicle panels are being pressed into the shape of an R1T pickup at Rivian Automotive’s gleaming central Illinois factory, CEO RJ Scaringe points toward the assembly line and proudly proclaims, “that is someone’s car.”

That pride was evident throughout a media tour this month of the former Mitsubishi Motors plant in the university town of Normal. From the stamping department through general assembly and the paint shop, Scaringe points out cool details at every station.

Rivian bought the site for $16.5 million in 2017 and has turned it into a modern facility making some of America’s first electric pickups. Some former Mitsubishi workers — and their grown children — now assemble the R1T, along with an SUV and electric delivery van.

Rivian added 700,000 square feet to the original building, which had housed a joint venture between Mitsubishi Motors and Chrysler before Mitsubishi took over the plant. Mitsubishi closed it in 2015. Rivian salvaged vehicle stamping equipment as part of its efforts to reuse as much as possible.

Now with 3.3 million square feet, the plant employs 5,000 people and boasts production capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year. That ouput is divided among the R1T, R1S SUV and two sizes of EDV commercial vans for retailer Amazon.

But supply-chain shortages have held the plant back from its full potential. Rivan expects to make 25,000 vehicles this year, which is about half of what it could produce with adequate parts supply, Scaringe said.

“There’s 168 hours in a week,” he said. “We’re using a very small fraction of those hours. So that’s by far our biggest focus as an organization — getting as many parts as we possibly can so we can be building more vehicles.”

As of March 31, Rivian said it had made 3,568 vehicles since the factory’s opening in September 2021. The California-based startup did not break production down by model, but the R1T was by far the most common during the factory tour.

The R1T starts at $68,575, including shipping, and can be pushed to more than $100,000 for higher trims with pricey accessories. The R1S starts at $73,575 with shipping.

Rivian said in March it had 83,000 reservations for the R1T and R1S, in addition to Amazon’s initial order for 100,000 vans.

“Demand is more than we can produce, which is good,” Scaringe said. “The inverse to this is much worse — having more supply than demand.”

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