The clock is ticking louder on Rivian's planned launch late next year of its first product, a battery-electric pickup with a claimed 400-mile range. There's lot of work to do in a short period if the company is to meet the ambitious target.
For instance, just two weeks ago, Rivian was granted another in a series of permits to revamp the former Mitsubishi assembly plant in Normal, Ill., where the company's electric pickup and SUV are to be built. Not only does the factory need to be retooled but a new work force needs to be hired and trained, and the production system validated before mass output and sales can start.
That alone is a lot to do in about 17 months. But if Rivian can rehire Mitsubishi employees who were furloughed when the plant was closed in mid-2016, the experienced work force might be able to reduce some of the training time.
Still, as I am with all startups, I remain skeptical of Rivian. The design, engineering and manufacturing challenges of bringing a vehicle to market with the quality, reliability, durability, refinement and performance that consumers expect is a daunting challenge even for established automakers. And even if a startup checks most of those boxes, making a consistent profit seems nearly impossible. Example: Tesla.
Also, retooling a factory and then building a new vehicle created by design, engineering and manufacturing teams that have never worked together, at a new company with a new culture, well, that amps up the complexity considerably.
To quote Ringo Starr far out of context: "It don't come easy" — not even with a bevy of rich benefactors.