The first Rivian R1T electric pickup trucks finally started rolling off the factory floor in Normal, Illinois, in mid-September, but they won't be heading to dealerships, now or later. Instead, Rivian follows a similar path as Tesla, Polestar, and other electric vehicle companies by forgoing the franchised dealer model and selling direct to customers.
Using the Rivian website or calling a service line, customers can do everything from schedule a test drive to place an order or request service on the R1T pickup truck or R1S SUV, all without ever leaving their home. A Rivian Guide connects with the customer at the beginning of the shopping experience, and that individual stays with them throughout the purchase process.
Unlike traditional automakers and their dealers, Rivian will deploy mobile vans to perform maintenance and fix vehicles at owners' homes or places of business. Like other startups, the business model is a work in progress.
Soon enough, 10 stores will open followed by many more based on demand. The stores will be more for brand engagement than sales or service, and they coincide with Rivian's intent to foster community through its Membership network. Here's what we know and how to order a Rivian vehicle, available incentives and financing, and the benefits of operating in the digital realm of Automotive 2.0.
To order a 2022 Rivian R1T pickup truck, shoppers can go to the Rivian website and start configuring it immediately, but it might not get to shoppers' homes until January. Due to the semiconductor chip shortage hampering the automotive and industries, Rivian is committing all production to satisfy the backlog of 2022 Rivian R1T orders placed by people who plunked down a refundable $1,000 reservation.
Once the truck is ready, it will be delivered to the owner's home or chosen location. They'll have seven days or 1,000 miles to return it if unsatisfied.
2022 Rivian R1T
For pre-order holders, Rivian kicked off a multi-city test drive tour last Sunday to let reservation holders spend time getting to know the brand, the vehicle, and how to service and charge it, among other things. Tour stops are scheduled in Normal, NYC, then Northern and Southern California. More cities will be added based on demand and zip code data from reservation holders. The events last about two hours, with 20 minutes of drive time.
Pre-order holders can also schedule a test drive at their homes. The tester will come fully equipped but without any high-pressure sales tactics, Chief Growth Officer Jiten Behl told The Car Connection. Interested shoppers need to sign up at the Rivian Experiences part of the website.
As supply catches up with demand, more options will be available. Behl says that ordering, tours, and test drives will soon open up to anybody, with or without a pre-order. Rivian would not tell us how many reservations or pre-orders have been made.
Since electric vehicles don't need as frequent service as cars with combustion engines, the need for a physical service center at a dealer has changed. Rivian employs a fleet of mobile repair vans that come to your home and fix the vehicle. If it requires a more complex fix, Rivian will come and pickup the vehicle and provide you with a loaner. Many fixes can be done with the over-the-air updates, which don't require a visit from a van.
Rivian says that it has strategically deployed service centers and service vans based on ownership concentrations. Deployments will expand with demand. To start, the mobile service vans will not be electric.
It's easy to predict that they soon will be. One of Rivian's biggest investors, Amazon, plans to have 10,000 Rivian electric delivery vans on the road by next year, with that number increasing tenfold by the end of the decade.
Rivian Amazon electric delivery truck
Initially, Membership will be included with the purchase of a new Rivian vehicle, and members will get complimentary or “reduced-cost access” to beta-tested features not available to the public. After the unstated “extended trial period,” members will have to pay for membership.
Rivian Membership includes unlimited LTE connectivity access as well as unlimited free charging. But in the future, members can go on Rivian-led experiences to connect with other members, with the stores as a launching pad or meeting spot.
The broader global community is also considered: Rivian says it will match every mile driven by members with renewable energy purchases.
“Meaningful change happens when people come together,” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said, as quoted on its website. “That’s how we’ve built Rivian and that’s how we want to build our community.”
The cost of Membership includes DC fast-charging on Rivian’s Adventure Network. At 200 kw, it enables 140 miles of charge in 20 minutes. Rivian plans to open 600 sites nationally and in Canada by the end of 2023. Tesla has an estimated 1,150 Supercharger locations in North America, with multiple fast-charging connections at each location.
Rivian is also building out its Waypoints to total 10,000 Level 2 AC chargers off the beaten path in North America by 2024, charging at 11.5-kw charge up to 25 miles per hour, or a full charge in about 13 hours overnight.
Rivian vehicles qualify for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit, but getting that whole amount from the feds to offset income taxes owed depends on your income bracket. Thirteen states (Illinois just passed a $4,000 EV rebate beginning in July, 2022) have incentives on electric vehicles and associated home charging equipment. The incentives can help take the bite out of the $67,500 base price for the 2022 R1T or $73,000 for the R1T Adventure model.
Financing and insurance
Financing and insurance can be arranged on the shopping portal, and with help from the Rivian Guide. Chase underwrites the car loans. Buyers can also provide their own financing. Leasing is not an option.
Nationwide Mutual underwrites the insurance coverage offered through the Rivian shopping portal. Rivian says its insurance helps reduce insurance costs, and that Insurance Advisors work internally with the Rivian team in the event of a collision to "apply what we learn to make our vehicles safer and less expensive to repair and insure." The Advisors are available via phone and email during regular business hours.