Rivian is already behind its self-announced schedule for initial deliveries of its first electric vehicle (EV) models, the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV. That the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the initial Fall 2020 delivery date is not a surprise. Still, the coronavirus is not the only thing that's delaying things further beyond the revised launch date, which Rivian had reset to start in late summer or early fall of 2021. Rivian says it has begun building production vehicles but must now wait on "various governing agencies" to approve initial deliveries.
Rivian isn't saying which agencies that might be, but there's no entry for any Rivian model on the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel-economy site, so that could be one. Approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could also be on deck. Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe reportedly sent a letter to the company's reservation holders explaining why customers are still waiting. The letter was obtained and portions published by EV industry observer website Electrek.
"Over the last several months, we have been focused on not only ramping our production rate, but also dialing in our quality across each of the five areas of our plant: stamping, body, paint, assembly, and propulsion (battery and drive units)," Scaringe wrote. "This challenging process involves multiple build phases—many of the vehicles from these non-customer build phases have been seen out testing across a range of environments during the last year. These validation, tooling tryout, and pilot build vehicles are critical for our ongoing mileage accumulation program that has helped us drive refinements to the product. With all of this, I am excited to report we have started producing vehicles that reflect all of our quality iterations and design refinements. We are currently working with various governing agencies on the final approvals needed for us to make the first deliveries to preorder customers in September."
The first EV model that Rivian will deliver is the R1T, with the R1S due next year. Scaringe's letter said reservation holders would be able to complete their orders next month.
Rivian targets an upscale, adventurous electric-vehicle demographic with its capable EVs. Earlier this year, the company announced its "Rivian Adventure Network," a system of DC fast chargers to be built across the United States and Canada, not just near highways but also "further into more remote destinations," like Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Rivian has said it will install 3,500 fast chargers at over 600 sites by the end of 2023. The start-up automaker is also building zero-emission delivery vehicles for Amazon, with test units starting service in Los Angeles earlier this year.