Rivian Automotive, the electric truck startup that’s backed by Amazon, is targeting an IPO that could value the company at $70 billion, according to a Bloomberg report.
Previous reports suggested Rivian could target a $50 billion valuation in its public debut. The company was last valued at $27.6 billion when it raised $2.65 billion from T. Rowe Price Group, Fidelity Investments, and Amazon in January.
Amazon’s investment in Rivian goes well beyond its January fundraise. The e-commerce giant committed to buying 100,000 electric delivery vans produced by Rivian in 2019, and some of those deliveries began to hit the road earlier this year.
Rivian had targeted a June launch of its electric pickup truck, the RIT, but the company recently pushed back its planned launch to July. The company didn’t give a reason for the delay, but a supply chain crunch in the automotive sector has temporarily sidelined production for a number of companies, including Ford, Tesla, and General Motors.
When the Rivian RIT does hit the market, it will be one of the first electric pickup trucks on the market and seek to standout against competition, like Ford’s recently unveiled F-150 Lightning, and Tesla’s Cybertruck.
The company has hired advisers from JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley to work on the IPO, according to the report. No final decisions have been made about the IPO and details of Rivian’s potential listing could change, sources told Bloomberg.
And although we’ve known a lot about Rivian’s upcoming pickup and SUV for some time, the company has left some of the vehicles’ finer points a mystery.
On Friday, the Amazon-backed startup released some specifics about the R1T’s exterior and other features as it gears up to deliver its first vehicles to waiting customers.
Rivian has never said precisely how big the R1T is – but now it says the truck falls somewhere between a mid-size and a full-size pickup. It’s 217 inches long and around 72 inches tall, making it slightly longer and taller than a Toyota Tacoma and a good bit smaller than a Toyota Tundra. The R1T sits wider than both trucks, however.
The startup also gave a more detailed look at the truck’s various storage compartments.
The front trunk can fit two full-sized coolers and has 12-volt plugs, Rivian said. The vehicle’s unique “gear tunnel” – a horizontal storage space that can be accessed from either side of the vehicle – is 65 inches long and comes equipped with both 110-volt and 12-volt plugs. Both compartments can be opened through an app, a key fob, or exterior buttons on the vehicle.
There are two 110-volt outlets in the bed, where Rivian also stuck two LED lights and an integrated air compressor. The bed measures 54 inches long and 83.6 inches long, with the tailgate folded down. Not surprisingly, the tailgate can be opened through an app.
A locking storage unit under the bed houses a full-size spare tire. The compartment also has a drain hole so customers can fill it with ice and use it as a cooler.
Rivian plans to deliver the first R1T trucks to customers in June and says it will release more details about both the R1T and R1S in the near future.
Electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors has been paying salespeople to secure pre-orders of its battery-powered truck prototype for at least five years – a practice that is outside the bounds of most startups without a sellable product – a little-noticed lawsuit from 2017 reveals.
In the suit, a former employee accused Workhorse Group, which Lordstown spun out of in 2019, of failing to pay him commissions he earned by logging over 8,000 pre-orders for the Endurance pickup truck now being offered by Lordstown. A recent report by Hindenburg Research noted the suit, but Insider is the first outlet to report its details and its implications both for Lordstown and the host of startups racing to meet growing demand for EVs.
Commissioning pre-orders is not illegal, but it should raise a major red flag for investors, said Gartner analyst Michael Ramsey.
While Lordstown’s practice appears unique in the EV startup world, experts warn that no matter how they’re collected, pre-orders and reservations aren’t great tools for predicting which young automakers will prosper. Because they’re typically non-binding, they don’t necessarily indicate what level of demand a vehicle will generate when it enters production. A startup’s success is better determined by its technology and talent than by a metric that hinges more on interest than intent.
Lordstown’s pre-order list ‘obviously does not indicate real demand’
Even with the electric vehicle market starting to grow, deep-pocketed investors are crucial to any startup. It takes billions of dollars to launch an automaker. The industry’s history is littered with failures, and most of today’s startups will likely flounder before their products hit the market, according to risk consulting firm Guidehouse.
To attract capital, many fledgling automakers use pre-order figures as a proxy for the demand their future vehicles will command. Tesla in particular has a long history of doing this. The problem is that these orders represent a consumer’s interest in actually buying the vehicle once it reaches the market – not their commitment to do so.
The fact that Lordstown paid commissions for bringing in these orders further undermines the figures’ credibility, Ramsey said. “It obviously does not indicate real demand,” he told Insider.
Lordstown Motors has been commissioning pre-orders for years
The idea for Lordstown Motors originated at Workhorse Group. In 2019, Workhorse CEO Steve Burns left the startup. He bought the patent for its electric pickup, along with thousands of pre-orders for it, and made it the basis for a new company, Lordstown.
Today, Lordstown boasts more than 100,000 pre-orders for the pickup. That’s impressive when compared to those for similar EV startups like Lucid Motors and Fisker, which have about 8,000 and 14,000 pre-orders, respectively.
The 2017 lawsuit was filed against Workhorse by its former director of fleet sales, Jeffrey Esfeld. When he was hired in 2016, Esfeld said, he was tasked with securing up to 10,000 pre-orders per year. In just over a year, he logged more than 8,000 pre-orders, according to the court document. That number alone would account for over 8% of Lordstown’s current pre-orders to date. A Lordstown spokesperson would not confirm whether signatures gathered by Workhorse Group in 2016 are part of that total. (Esfeld declined a request for comment from Insider.)
Esfeld received a commission of roughly $30 per vehicle for each signed pre-order, according to the suit, on top of his $100,000 base salary. He would also receive a commission of 0.14% of the vehicle’s sale price for pre-orders that officially became sales. He was one of several employees that worked specifically on obtaining pre-orders for the truck.
During his time at the company, Esfeld was paid commissions for 3,050 vehicle pre-orders, from companies including Duke Energy and American Electric Power. (The case also notes Esfeld had been working to win over Amazon, which ultimately agreed to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from Lordstown rival Rivian.) But, he alleged, after laying him off in 2017, Workhorse failed to pay him $440,707 he had earned in commissions, representing about 5,000 pre-orders, including from Ryder, one of Lordstown’s biggest pre-order signees to date. (He ultimately won the suit, and Workhorse paid him an agreed upon amount of $87,000 in damages and $32,245.02 in attorneys’ fees and costs.)
The practice continued at Lordstown. In 2020, the startup hired consulting group Climb2Glory to commission orders, according to Hindenburg Research. On a page that was deleted after the short-seller’s report was released, Climb2Glory referenced how it helped Lordstown generate pre-orders.
Workhorse Group, Lordstown Motors, and Climb2Glory did not respond to requests for comment from Insider.
A questionable spin on a questionable practice
The Workhorse and Lordstown policy of paying commissions for pre-orders appears rare. “This is the first time I’ve heard of a start-up in that space doing anything like that,” Pitchbook analyst Asad Hussain told Insider. Comparable electric car startups, including Rivian, Lucid Motors, Fisker, and Nikola, do not pay commissions for pre-orders or contract workers to secure them, Insider found.
In recent automotive history, Elon Musk set the standard of using pre-orders to preview sales figures. “Tesla’s reservations taught the industry that this is a way to develop credibility with investors,” Ramsey said. But while it once charged $50,000 to pre-order a Roadster, it now asks a mere $100 from someone who wants a Cybertruck. That’s comparable to (usually refundable) reservation fees charged by the likes of Fisker ($250) and Lucid Motors ($300).
That lesson isn’t necessarily a good one, Ramsey said. “Investors need to think long and hard about the viability of the pre-orders that any of these startups are touting.”
Hussain told Insider that investors need to focus more on technology and execution, rather than “propaganda.” He thinks the Wall Street trend of using special-purpose acquisition companies to go public has put a lot of companies, like Lordstown Motors, in a position they’re not mature enough for yet.
“The ability for early stage startups to go to market, even without revenue, creates a double-edged sword,” Hussain told Insider. “It allows everyday people to gain access to disruptive technologies like electric cars, but it also puts new companies and investors in a precarious position – how can they prove there will be demand for their product, without revenue? That’s where pre-orders can get tricky.”
For Lordstown, reliance on pre-orders has put it in the crosshairs of notorious short-seller Hindenburg Research. Just last fall, the same group released a damning report on Nikola that caused the company’s stock to plummet and its CEO Trevor Milton to step down. Currently, Lordstown is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its pre-order practices. Its stock is trading at around $9, down from a high of $30 in February.
“A lot of these companies tout non-binding pre-orders or reservations,” Hussain said. “But, if you’re actually paying for them [the pre-orders] it does bring up some questions and it is not characteristic of the space.”
“The key question mark for many of these startups is: Can you actually get your factories up and running? Can you actually manufacture those vehicles?”
Electric-vehicle startup Canoo on Wednesday unveiled an upcoming pickup loaded with fold-out work surfaces, a customizable back seat, and an extendable bed. But it’s not the only carmaker planning an electric truck with unique features.
Established makes like Ford, General Motors, and Tesla – along with upstarts like Rivian and Bollinger – are all racing to introduce battery-powered options to the hugely popular vehicle segment, and they’re trying their best to one-up each other in the process.
From what we know so far, many of these forthcoming EV trucks share some key qualities. With exceptions, they generally claim to pack tons of horsepower, supercar-like acceleration, and a great deal of utility into a sleek, futuristic package.
Plus, several companies are looking to set themselves apart from the pack by cramming their trucks with useful and just-plain-cool features – everything from a removable roof to in-truck storage for a slide-out camp kitchen.
Check out some of the wildest features promised in the Rivian R1T, Tesla Cybertruck, Bollinger B2, GMC Hummer EV, Canoo pickup, and Lordstown Endurance below.
Although they’re not on the market just yet, multiple electric pickup trucks are set to take the world by storm over the next couple of years.
Electric pickups on the way include the Rivian R1T, Bollinger B1, GMC Hummer EV, Lordstown Endurance, and, of course, the controversially styled Tesla Cybertruck.
We don’t have all the details yet about these trucks, but here are some of the coolest features that will apparently be available.
Canoo’s pickup will have a work surface that folds out from its frunk…
And tables that fold down from its sides as well.
It’ll also have a built-in bed extender that lengthens it from six to eight feet.
Canoo also included a hidden step that makes it easier to access the bed. It’s also a drawer where owners can stash food, drinks, and valuables when out and about.
Rivian’s R1T will feature what the company calls a “gear tunnel,” essentially a long cargo compartment running widthwise through the middle of the truck, behind the rear seats.
That tunnel can potentially be customized for lots of different purposes such as a slide-out camp kitchen, which is a $5,000 add-on.
According to patent filings, the R1T also may have a “swing and drop” tailgate that can fold out to 90 degrees like a standard tailgate, or drop all the way down to 180 degrees for easier access to the bed.
Not to mention, the R1T can spin in place like a tank.
Not sure exactly what that tank-turn feature means?
Fun. That’s what it means.
The GMC Hummer EV, unveiled in October, promises optional features like an “extract mode” that lifts the vehicle by six inches on demand …
… and a four-wheel-steering system that cuts down its turning radius and lets it drive diagonally.
The Hummer EV also sports a transparent roof made of removable panels.
To help with challenging off-road terrain, customers will be able to opt for underbody cameras …
… as well as underbody armoring to protect the battery and other vulnerable spots.
Tesla’s Cybertruck failed to live up to the hype within minutes of its debut due to its supposedly unbreakable windows, but the model has no shortage of features that’ll be quite exciting – should they come to be.
During the Cybertruck’s reveal event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off a retractable ramp for loading dirt bikes, ATVs, and other cargo into the bed.
Tesla also claims the retro-futuristic truck will be impervious to dents, scratches, and bullets thanks to a thick, stainless-steel body.
It’ll also purportedly have a transparent roof that can be optioned with solar cells. Musk said on Twitter that the solar-roof option could generate 15-plus miles of charge per day.
Built for utility, the boxy Bollinger B2 doesn’t have much in the way of modern conveniences. It sports manual windows, manual mirrors, analog gauges, and no screens, but it still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
It boasts removable windows, doors, and roof panels.
Plus, it will supposedly have a nifty, folding rear-cabin wall, which will make room for bulkier items that won’t fit in the bed.
Without a pesky engine in the way, the B2 will offer a full-length pass through, which lets owners haul 16-foot-long boards and other cargo.
The Lordstown Endurance, meanwhile, claims to have a drivetrain with only four moving parts.
That’s because it has a hub motor in each wheel.
But while the EV pickups are on the way, they won’t be here right away. Lordstown Endurance, Hummer EV, and R1T deliveries are expected to begin in 2021, while an electric Ford F-150 won’t be around until mid 2022.
Baron Funds, a mutual fund company managed by billionaire investor Ron Baron, has reduced its stake in Tesla after the holding became a very large percentage of client account, according to a Thursday interview with CNBC.
Baron Funds built its stake in Tesla between 2014 and 2016, and since then its initial $318 million stake is now worth about $3.3 billion.
In what was a “painful” moment, Baron sold 1.8 million Tesla shares for clients, about 25% of its stake, between $450 and $900 per share, according ot the interview.
As for his personal stake in Tesla of more than 1 million shares, Baron has yet to sell a single share, according to the interview.
The bullish outlook on Tesla remains for Baron, as he thinks the stock could more than triple over the next decade as it capitalizes on its autonomous driving software. What costs a one-time fee of $10,000 today to enable autonomous driving could cost just $100 per month once Tesla reaches scale, according to Baron.
Disruption in the auto sector remains an investment theme for Baron, as evidenced by new investments the fund manager has made over the past year.
In January, Baron purchased a $10 million stake in Cruise, an autonomous driving start-up that was acquired by General Motors in 2016. The firm is based in San Francisco and has been mapping every street in the city in hopes to eventually offer a robo-taxi service in the city, similar to what Alphabet’s Waymo is doing in Phoenix, Baron said.
“They want to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive just like you, but better… and if they can do it, that business is going to be a giant home run,” Barron said of Cruise.
Baron also highlighted his investment in electric truck developer Rivian, which is partially owned by Amazon. Baron called his private investment in Rivian “really exciting.”
Electric-vehicle startup Rivian may go public as soon as September at a $50 billion valuation that could make it more valuable than Ford, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.
And while that valuation would certainly be high for any newly listed company – it’s 35 times what Tesla was worth at its 2010 IPO – Rivian has plenty going for it that other aspiring Tesla rivals don’t.
With billions in backing from high-profile investors, a manufacturing plant already up and running, commercial and consumer EVs on the way, and future models in the works, Rivian has emerged as one of the most promising challengers to Tesla that’s not a legacy car brand.
Here’s what you need to know about the company:
Rivian only went public with its business in 2018, but it’s been around in one iteration or another for quite a while.
The Southern California-based startup was founded in 2009 by then-26-year-old RJ Scaringe, an MIT mechanical-engineering grad who remains the company’s CEO. Back then, the Tesla Roadster – Tesla’s first offering – was the sole cool EV on the market, and Scaringe sought to build a battery-powered sports car of his own.
Two-and-a-half years deep into the car’s development, Rivian was struggling to raise money and Scaringe decided to pivot. He told Insider in 2018 that he scrapped the project after he realized it didn’t stand out enough from the competition.
“In those early years, I was failing to answer the most fundamental of questions, which is why we exist,” Scaringe told Insider.
Two consumer vehicles due out in 2021 that fill Tesla’s gaps
Rivian pegs itself as a high-end EV maker for an adventurous crowd – sort of like what Land Rover is for gas-powered vehicles. Although Tesla has dominated the consumer EV space for years, that’s a market it hasn’t tapped.
The R1T starts at $67,500 and promises a range of up to 400 miles, up to 750 horsepower, and an 11,000-lb towing capacity. Eventually, there will also be a cheaper, 250-mile-range truck.
The R1S starts at $70,000, gets a range of around 300 miles at launch, and is available in a five-seat or seven-seat configuration. Both models can be equipped with outdoorsy upgrades like a camping kitchen that slides out from a “gear tunnel” behind the rear seats.
All Launch Edition models – the only vehicles Rivian will ship to customers in 2021 – are already spoken for. Rivian is building them at its plant in Normal, Illinois, a former Mitsubishi factory it bought in 2017.
A plan to electrify Amazon’s logistics empire
In 2019, Amazon contracted Rivian to build it a fleet of 100,000 battery-powered delivery vans by 2030 – a massive order for a firm that hadn’t yet delivered a single vehicle. The first vans began making deliveries this month, and Amazon said tens of thousands will join them in the next few years.
That makes Rivian a relatively early mover in the world of commercial EVs. And a partnership with the shipping giant – which is its own largest package handler – gives it a leg up over the competition.
Legacy automakers like Ford, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz – along with EV startups like Canoo and Bollinger – have all confirmed they’re working on electric delivery vehicles, but Rivian beat all of them to the punch.
What sets Rivian apart from the slew of EV startups that have cropped up in recent years is its impressive list of investors.
Rivian has managed to raise more than $8 billion in recent years from firms including Amazon, BlackRock, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, Cox Automotive, and Ford. In the last year alone, it has raked in more than $5 billion.
As several other early-stage EV startups have raised funds by going public through reverse mergers – a phenomenon that some experts have called a bubble – Rivian has avoided going that route.
Rivian has big plans for the future, in addition to its potential IPO.
Scaringe told Reuters last year that following the rollout of the R1S and R1T, Rivian plans to produce smaller models for the Chinese and European markets. And Bloomberg reported earlier in February that the automaker is scouting locations in Europe for a new plant that would build Amazon delivery vans and consumer vehicles.
Rivian is also working on a network of fast-charging stations with locations not only on the side of highways, but also near off-roading spots, hiking trails, and parks, Scaringe told TechCrunch.
Investor hype for electric vehicle manufacturers seems to have spilled over into Ford this week, with the stock surging as much as 23% since Tuesday.
The move higher materialized after Rivian, an electric truck start-up that counts Ford as a minority owner, raised $2.65 billion at a valuation of $27.6 billion on Tuesday. The raise will help Rivian push forward with its production schedule as it aims to begin delivering vehicles by the end of the year.
Ford has an undisclosed stake in Rivian, having invested $500 million in the company in April 2019. Rivian’s $28 billion valuation is catching up to Ford’s, which was hovering at $44 billion as of Thursday.
But Ford also has electric vehicle ambitions of its own. The company is on the verge of launching the electric version of its Mustang, the Mach-E.
After analysts at JPMorgan test drove the Mach-E, they said in a note on January 8, “Ford is showing more and more signs of becoming a credible contender in battery electric vehicles.”
Ford is also developing an electric version of its pick-up truck, the F-150, though there is no official release date for the vehicle.