DETROIT — With its battery-electric concept pickup and full-size SUV now fully revealed and with orders on the books, upstart automaker Rivian Automotive now hits "the hardest part" of becoming a full-on automaker: actually making autos.
But CEO RJ Scaringe, 35, says his 10-year-old company, with a management team gleaned from across the more experienced parts of the industry, a well-thought-out and well-capitalized plan, and a dedicated factory in Normal, Ill., is ready to give it its all.
And, Scaringe says, Rivian is determined to avoid some of the high-profile problems that have vexed electric startups such as Tesla.
"We do recognize the complexity of assembling and putting vehicles together, of managing a very complex supply chain and logistics network, and we're very [cognizant] of the nuts and bolts, and of the need to follow a proper process to ensure that, when we launch the vehicle, it can be launched with as few problems, errors and challenges as possible," Scaringe said during a fireside chat at the Automotive News World Congress.
Scaringe said his company — based in suburban Detroit and with plans to begin delivering copies of its R1T electric pickup and R1S electric SUV beginning in 2020 — has product plans for at least four other vehicles that will share the same battery and powertrain "skateboard" as the R1T and R1S. Those products, which Scaringe did not detail, will be in the pickup and SUV segments, he said.
"I think any great brand ... to build a brand that customers are going to be excited about and that customers are going to want to be part of, it has to fundamentally reset expectations. It has to disprove untruths," Scaringe said.
"Tesla took the untruth that electric cars were boring and slow — that they were glorified golf carts — and they disproved that. They showed people that an electric car can be exciting and fun."
Scaringe said his company, focusing on trucks and off-road-capable SUVs, will be different, and answer a different question.
"What we need to disprove is that an electric vehicle [can't] get dirty, and that an electric vehicle [can't] be rugged, and an electric vehicle [can't] go off-road and take your family places, and that an off-road vehicle [can't] be good on-road," Scaringe said.
"We want to get the guy who already has a Range Rover sitting next to a Tesla [in the garage], or the [Jeep] Wrangler sitting next to the [BMW] i3, and grab them with something that was just completely different than what they thought was possible," he said. "It will be the best-driving truck or SUV in the world. It must be, because if it's not, why would somebody pick us over a Ford or over a BMW?"