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Rivian will likely push first deliveries of its electric vehicles into 2021

Rivian was expected to make the first customer deliveries of its electric truck later this year. The company slowed down work at its factory in Normal, Illinois, in mid-March, and then shut down operations there on March 20. The Pantagraph, a local newspaper in the Bloomington-Normal area, now says that Rivian’s first deliveries will slip into 2021.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos told The Pantagraph:

Given the fact that Rivian had to shut down for their workers, I think there’s still construction going on. I can see that this is a setback.

I fully expected this to happen. They were working very furiously hard to get the line going, and to have that come to a stop, I’m sure set them back, so I completely understand that 2021 is probably a more realistic goal.

The Pantagraph‘s headline, “Rivian delays production launch to 2021,” is somewhat misleading. The first deliveries of the Rivian’s R1T electric pickup truck were expected in the final days of 2020, with the R1S electric SUV arriving about three months later. The timing for when production will resume is still uncertain.

The pandemic has already resulted in at least a few weeks of delay. Supply chains could also be affected. However, slippage of the first deliveries from late December into the first weeks of 2021 does not constitute a one-year delay.

The pandemic is very unlikely to affect the delivery date of electric vans to Amazon vans in 2021, or its commitment to have at least 10,000 of those delivery vehicles on the road in 2022.

Rivian did not provide a comment to the Pantagraph. But the company issued this statement to customers on April 1:

The world has changed a lot in these last few weeks. We’ve shut down all Rivian facilities to protect our team and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While this situation has required us to redefine workflows and rethink the ways we collaborate, it hasn’t stopped us from making progress. From living rooms, kitchen tables, backyards, basements, and newly cleaned out closets, our team is continuing to work hard toward bringing our products to life.

This evolving new reality is not without impact on our program timing. While we expect some level of delay, we are working to minimize the disruption to our launch schedule and as we better understand the extent of the impact, you will be the first to know.

For the past few weeks, the company has operated with only 10 to 12 people out of its roughly 315 employees onsite for construction. The skeletal crew maintains the most basic operations for the 2.6-million-square-feet factory.

The company shared a video of work at the factory before the shutdown.

Rivian told Electrek that it will continue to share news about production as the situation evolves.

Mayor Koos said:

I’m sure that there’s some work that they can do from home, but not much. I think everybody is having to readjust their outlook and their plans as a result of the COVID-19 and Rivian is not alone in that.

Electrek’s Take

Rivian has been remarkable for its ability to make progress with its electric vehicles. It had built considerable momentum with raising funds, securing partnerships, and the timely construction of its factory.

The company has also been exceptionally responsible with its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Rivian continues to pay all employees as the company closed all of its facilities. It has proven itself a good neighbor to the Normal community, where it expects to hire thousands of people over the next decade.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak is an unanticipated and unavoidable situation. It has forced Rivian to delay production with some impact on the timing of its first deliveries. However, the company is better positioned to pause some of its pre-production rather than halting assembly lines that were already online. We fully expect the company to resume progress and deliver vehicles as soon as possible. Like the rest of us, the pandemic makes the near future hard to predict.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.