Photo by Mitchell Clark / The Verge
Amazon-backed EV startup Rivian is going to build a second factory in Georgia where it will assemble up to 400,000 electric vehicles per year. The company made the announcement on Thursday alongside state representatives after months of speculation over where it would look to expand its manufacturing footprint. Rivian will start construction of the $5 billion facility in the summer of 2022 and expects to start making vehicles there in 2024.
Rivian is already building its first electric pickup trucks at a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois. The company also said Thursday that it has shipped its first two SUVs. It is also committed to producing 100,000 custom delivery vans for Amazon, so it has been searching for a place to create a factory from the ground up for future vehicles.
Rivian had been in talks with Forth Worth, Texas to build the new factory there and was evaluating “multiple locations” as recently as August. The new factory in Georgia will be built about an hour east of Atlanta and will employ 7,500 workers. Rivian says it plans to build a “co-located” battery cell production facility in the area as well. It’s not immediately clear how much Rivian is getting in state and local incentives, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — which broke the news last week that the factory announcement was coming — says the figure is expected to be “staggering.”
Founded in 2009, Rivian took a slow path to where it is today. It didn’t come out of stealth mode until 2018, shortly before it debuted the pickup truck (the R1T) and SUV (the R1S) at that year’s LA Auto Show. Since then, though, it has been on an incredible rise. It has hired thousands of employees, collected billions of dollars in funding from Amazon, Ford, T. Rowe Price, and others, and recently went public in one of the biggest IPOs in US history.
The startup’s grand ambitions come with a high price tag, though, as it has said it expects to spend $8 billion through the end of 2023. Rivian revealed Thursday that it lost $1.23 billion in the third quarter of 2021 alone, though it is finally generating revenue as it delivered the first 11 R1T pickup trucks — good for $1 million in sales. The startup says it has produced 652 R1 vehicles to date and delivered 386, including the first two R1S SUVs, but that it will fall “a few hundred vehicles short of our 2021 production target of 1,200.”
Rivian finished the quarter with $5.2 billion in cash, but says that the proceeds of its IPO and other recent funding rounds have already boosted that figure to $19.9 billion.
Rivian has taken around 55,000 preorders for the R1T and R1S combined and has said that it will take two years to make all those vehicles alongside the Amazon delivery vans. (In Thursday’s regulatory filing, the startup said the number of preorders has gone up to 71,000). But the company has other future models in the works and plans to sell non-delivery vans to other commercial customers, so it needs more capacity. The Illinois plant is currently only able to make as many as 150,000 vehicles per year, though Rivian has said it believes that can be stretched to 200,000 by 2023.