EV startup Rivian led off with the Rivian R1T, an overlanding electric pickup. Rivian beat Ford, General Motors, Ram and Tesla to market with an electric truck and promised to sell it at a reasonably (by EV standards) price point. We loved it and named it our game-changing vehicle of the year in the GP100.
Alas, getting the R1T to buyers has not gone as smoothly or quickly as Rivian would have liked. The brand had to raise prices and walk back imposing those price hikes on existing pre-order holders. Rivian has a backlog of tens of thousands of reservation holders to work through and delivered just 1,227 pickups in Q1 of 2022. But Rivian may have a plan that could get trucks in the hands of pre-order holders in a matter of weeks.
According to the Rivian Owners Forum, Rivian has been sending out emails to existing pre-order holders with an invitation to a new R1T shop. The shop allows pre-order holders to exchange their custom reserved truck for a pre-configured version and take delivery in six to eight weeks or sooner.
If accurate, that Rivian strategy makes sense. Customization of trucks is a huge business and source of profits. But it also adds complexity to the production line. The Big Three manufacturers are equipped to handle that with their vast, well-established production operations and part networks. But for Rivian, just trying to set up its infrastructure, added complexity would create maddening delays and cost increases, especially with current inflation and supply chain issues.
Would Rivian buyers accept a pre-configured model that might not have all their preferred options? We would guess so. That's how — until recently, with the chip shortage — most people bought cars. And we would bet — given the relatively affordable, fully refundable pre-orders — a significant number of buyers may be holding multiple EV truck reservations waiting for any electric truck that can be delivered.