As pickup competitors loom, Rivian turns to family fun SUVs and lower costs

Although it isn’t obvious, Rivian is the midst of a big transformation right now. Until recently, almost all of its sales have been in its high end, 4-motor pickup trucks. However, the company announced in its latest earning’s call that it was switching its mix of output to favor its 7-seat R1S SUV which has much less competition currently and on the horizon. It is also spinning up 2-motor versions of its R1 vehicles which will cost significantly less with very little performance cost. Add to that a cheaper LFP battery pack due later this year and R2 models starting at $40,000 to be unveiled next year, and you’ve got an entirely different focus.

Coincidentally, ahead of getting my own R1S in 1-8 weeks, Rivian gave me a loaner to help my vacationing extended family get around town…

Rivian’s current high-end situation

Rivian has been turning out its 4-motor high end R1T pickups for two years and over the past year has been ramping up its R1S SUVs to folks who ordered early. These vehicles, I believe, are going to be an increasingly rare premium mix of Rivians going forward as the company pivots to cheaper enduro drivetrains that employ two motors to drive the 4WD systems at almost the same horsepower. Next year, Rivian will unveil its R2 platform which will cost anywhere from $40-60K according to CFO Claire McDonough.

Tricks like tank turns, which would have differentiated the 4-motor Rivians for the 2-motor landscape, have been scrapped because in Rivian’s words, they didn’t conform to Rivian’s mission of leaving the world a better place – by tearing up roads. I haven’t yet driven a 2-motor Rivian, but I don’t think there are a lot of tricks that a 4-motor vehicle can do that a 2-motor can’t. In fact, the 2-motor versions (R1S) seem to get significantly better range on what appears to be the same batteries:

The top end Enduro drivetrain will lose 100 horsepower and 208 ft lbs of torque, but it still be a monster. At 700 horsepower/lb ft torque, it still produces a blistering 3.5 second 0-60 time, putting it on top of the pickup world. As a bonus, those motors are more efficient, yielding a 20-70 mile range improvement. Rivian CFO Claire McDonough put the number at 352 miles for the enduro R1S:

I’ve been driving an R1S within Enduro the last handful of weeks and can say first-hand experience that it’s a phenomenal product, expanded range. We have now have 352 miles of range with our large pack and Enduro drive unit.

My point is that even if the Enduro system was at price parity with the 4-motor system, many people would opt for the improved range over the parlor tricks. I know I’m in that camp. I’m here for the space and the range together with winter driving and the occasional off-road camping trip. “Rally, Drift and Rock Crawl” aren’t part of my vernacular, just like 95% of potential Rivian customers. Oh – and I can probably handle a .5 second slower 3.5 second 0-60.

Luckily, according to Rivian, the Enduro motor vehicles will start shipping in the next week.

Demand for its premium R1T pickup trucks is waning

Rivian can now deliver a R1T pickup truck to a new customer within a fortnight. It even had a one-day show up at the factory and get a pickup truck event last week. While there’s no direct off road SUV competition for the R1S, R1T is going to see a lot of lower priced competition in the coming months. Ford’s F-150 Lightning is ramping up, and the soon-to-be-launched Silverado EV and Tesla Cybertruck will be here before we know it.

This quarter is the Rivian R1S quarter

McDonough said that the mix of orders for Rivian favored the R1S SUV over the R1T Pickup 75% to 25%, and the company was going to switch up its manufacturing accordingly. That makes a ton of sense since the R1T waiting period is days and the R1S waiting period pushes out into 2025 currently.

Anecdotally, my Oct-Dec 2023 R1S ordered in 2020 arrived in Brooklyn this weekend via Rivian Shop, and I will likely be picking it up Monday. Others that have late 2023 orders are being given access to the Rivian Shop where they can likely find vehicles similar to theirs awaiting adoption.

Rivian R1S Review

Honestly, I don’t have much to add since my original review about a year ago, in which I called it the best SUV ever made. I stand by that even as competitors loom on the horizon from Kia and VW’s Scout. Also since I bought in early, I’m eligible for the $7500 Fed Tax credit and lower price, so my before Tesla trade-in price, about $66K. The easy sell:

  • 0-60 time of 3.0 seconds. That’s supercar speed, and the fastest vehicle of any kind you can get for under $100K (Tesla Model 3 Performance is a close second at 3.1 sec). Update, my bad: $70K Corvette with Z51 package will do it in 2.9 secs.
  • One of the best off-road production vehicles, if not the best, out there at any price
  • 7 seats, all comfortable and not claustrophobic, cupholders and USB-C ports everywhere
  • Handles like a sports car, 4 motors and independent suspension
  • Tons of storage in frunk and back, yet will fit in most garages
  • Over 300 miles of range and fast ~250kW charging for trips
  • 1.5kW of 110V AC home backup power or power to a worksite or camp
  • Intangibles like built-in flashlight, Bluetooth speaker, air compressor, etc.
  • A pretty good-looking vehicle, even if those oval headlamps haven’t yet grown on you
  • Rivian is a great company that seems to care about the planet, or at least it doesn’t feel gross giving them my money.

It was incredibly easy to haul seven people and luggage around Westchester, New York. We were able to go an hour north to a water slide park in the morning, then come back and drive a few hours to the south to Newark Airport (with luggage) in the afternoon, then back home without a charging stop. Every seat including the two in the back were comfortable and not claustrophobic.

The only slight downside is that Rivian’s maps don’t deal/measure congestion quite as well as Google Maps yet. Things have definitely improved over the past year including its autopilot called Driver+. Rivian recently announced they were removing the internal cameras, so it will likely rely on hands torque-ing the steering wheel which I’m not a fan of. I would like to get a clearer *road map* of Driver+.

The only other complaint I can muster up is the venting being an on-screen menu item rather than just manual vent pointing things.

There’s just an amazing feeling driving around in one of the quickest cars on the road that is also one of the best off roading vehicles that also seats 7 comfortably and also handles well and looks great. It feels like being a man among boys on the road.

Rivian with ABRP and open charging stations can be the anti-Tesla EV

Now just isn’t a time where Rivian can ramp its production, it is also reaching to become a leader in the overall EV space. Its Adventure Charging Network will add important off the beaten path locations to the Tesla NACS network and EA/EVgo/etc options.

With ABRP, Rivian will offer all EV customers a great route planning guide and an easy onramp to adopting a Rivian EV.

Rivian Spaces are awesome and will spur demand

I recently got to attend the opening of the Rivian Space in Manhattan. And although Manhattan is about the least car-friendly place you could imagine in the US, lots of people from around the US and around the world visit every day. Rivian describes the spaces as a place to:

  • Get hands on experience with Rivian vehicles
  • Chat with experts about all things Rivian
  • See our our colors, materials and finishes in person
  • Learn about Rivian’s charging network and products
  • Shop a curated selection from the Gear Shop
  • Come to events and workshops
  • Take a demo drive (sign up ahead of time)

While I biked to the High Line and 14th st. location, Rivian was giving test drives toward the West Side Highway, but as you can imagine, any off roading locations are too far away for a test drive.

The store reminded me of a Burton or Patagonia store with lots of lifestyle pieces. I could see a number of like-minded adventure brands being featured here. Tents, adventure gear, and anything else that would add to the Rivian experience would be welcome.

Along with its original Venice Space, Rivian plans to put these in a number of big cities including flagships in Austin and another in Brooklyn, in addition to the first Canada Space in Vancouver.

Electrek’s Take

Rivian is in transformation. Almost all of the Rivians you see on the road today are 4-motor pickups. That’s about to change. Q3 is going to be about delivering R1Ses and starting the lower priced, higher range 2-motor vehicles.

In a year, the 4-motor variants will be a small piece of Rivian’s sales with the the biggest seller being the 2-motor R1S.

At the same time, with the open Adventure charger network, ownership and stewardship of ABRP, new Rivian Spaces and hopefully doubling sales, Rivian will be an answer to the current Tesla-dominated all EV space.

Midway through writing this story, Rivian contacted me to let me know my R1S is going to be ready in Brooklyn on Monday. I can’t wait.

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