Rivian is different from Tesla in several respects. Tesla so far has grown by selling sporty sedans, a type of vehicle that is falling out of favor with consumers. Tesla intends to begin making an oddly angular, futuristic pickup, the Cybertruck, later this year. But it hasn’t yet put heavy focus on the trucks and S.U.V.s that make up 75 percent of the passenger vehicle market in the United States.
Rivian, on the other hand, is focused on producing “adventure” vehicles that owners can take off-road, an approach that means Rivian won’t often compete head-to-head with Tesla. “There’s a perception that this is winner take all, and that’s just wrong,” he said. “Consumers need to have different brands, different flavors. Our success is not at all mutually exclusive to others’ success.”
Rebecca Puck Stair is the kind of car buyer Rivian hopes to attract. A movie location scout in Albuquerque, N.M., she has been interested in buying an electric vehicle for a few years, but needs high ground clearance and four-wheel drive capability for assignments that take her into the desert. “That didn’t exist in the market,” she said. “A Tesla doesn’t fit my needs.”
About a year ago, she heard about Rivian for the first time and put a deposit down on an S.U.V. the next day — like Tesla, the company does not plan to sell through dealers. Ms. Stair has seen the Cybertruck, but the design is not for her. “It just screams ‘obnoxious guy truck,’” she said laughing.
Rivian’s truck and S.U.V., which start at $67,500, look more conventional, as if they could have been designed by Land Rover.
Unlike Tesla, which is trying to grow quickly, Rivian is taking measured steps. Last year, before the pandemic struck, it said it planned to make around 20,000 pickup trucks and S.U.V.s in 2021 and some 40,000 in 2022. It has not yet offered an updated outlook. It is aiming to have production capacity in Normal of 250,000 vehicles a year by the middle of the decade. The company has not disclosed how many orders it has taken, but a spokeswoman said it has customers lined up for all the vehicles it expects to make this year.
And even as other auto start-ups go public by merging with shell companies that have bundles of cash and stock market listings, Rivian is not eager to do so. “We want to launch, demonstrate our capability and let our performance speak for itself before we can look into being public,” Mr. Scaringe, 38, said.