Electric vehicle start-up Rivian has said it believes it has enough cash on hand to ramp up production to the point of profitability, amidst increasing pressure from shareholders and customers.

The company has the distinction of delivering the first electric pickup trucks to the US market, but it now faces competition from Ford, which has begun delivering its first F-150 Lightning electric pickups.

Ford was an initial backer of Rivian, but the two companies have since scaled back plans to work together.

Ford earlier this month sold about 8 percent of its shares in Rivian following the expiry of a post-IPO lockup period. Tiger Global Management also sold shares at around the same time.

Customer frustration

Customers have taken the company to task after it increased prices across the board, in an effort to offset rising costs, causing Rivian to backtrack and raise prices only for new orders.

Most recently the company faces controversy over changes to its delivery model, made in late April, which has seen it prioritise vehicles with specific interior and exterior wheel and colour options.

That has caused some buyers to receive vehicles sooner than others who placed orders years earlier.

“Building in few build combinations reduces complexity with our suppliers and in the plant and allows us to build a greater number of vehicles,” Rivian told customers in an email at the time.

The company said in a statement delivery dates are not based solely on the timing of a preorder and that it is exploring ways for customers to expedite deliveries.

Chip shortages

Rivian has also cut production plans and delayed vehicles as it struggles, like most auto makers, with shortages of supplies such as microchips and the raw materials to manufacture batteries.

At its most recently quarerly earnings call earlier this month, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas criticised the company, saying investors “don’t want to fund negative EBITDA growth companies in this environment”.

Rivian chief executive RJ Scaringe told investors he believes the “valley” of the semiconductor shortage is behind it. Some car makers have given a similar outlook, while others have said the shortage could last into next year.

Scaringe and chief financial officer Claire McDonough said they can bring costs down by simplifying the company’s vehicle lineup and minimising expenses.

Rivian told investors it has enough cash on hand – nearly $17 billion (£14bn) – to ramp up production at its Normal, Illinois facility to the point of profitability, as well as to open a second $5bn factory in Geogia in 2025.

Profitability plan

“We have the ability to live within our means,” McDonough said, adding that the Normal plant can deliver profitability that would allow Rivian to “pace the ongoing growth of the business”.

This would allow for flexibility with when and how to return to capital markets for additional funding, she said.

Rivian said at its earnings call it is on track for its target of manufacturing 25,000 vehicles this year, and that it currently has 90,000 preorders, up from 83,000 in March.

As of 9 May it has produced 5,000 vehicles, including its electric trucks, SUVs and delivery vans for Amazon, the company said.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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