Rivian: the crazy electric car company with $600m from Tesla and Ford

Last week a company called Rivian set sail, but kept a limited number of vehicles behind closed doors at the Waterstones on Oxford Street in London, where they had an excellent viewing event and were giving away free electric vehicles. They entered a lot of discussions with customers and the local press, and sold a lot of cars to people who would not normally have purchased a plug-in car.

Behind closed doors, Rivian was still working out how they were going to make this really exciting idea a reality, but it looks like we may see very soon, a C40 electric SUV that will cost more than $35,000 and be priced in the same range as the Tesla Model X, or at close to the price of the McLaren P1.

Previously, Rivian had raised $600 million through its initial public offering, at a $5.3 billion valuation, in the most notable IPOs in the automotive sector so far this year. [Back in May, Rivian announced that it had raised $300 million, at a valuation of $4.9 billion, in Series D funding.]

According to Rivian’s prospectus, they would get about a billion dollars from Tesla, at some point in the future, and another half a billion from Ford. The IPOs are part of a larger plan to create a new class of electric vehicles called the Rapid Product Development Vehicles. [A quick note: “Rapid Product Development Vehicles” is a fancy word for autonomous vehicles.]

So, Rivian has raised $600 million from two large automakers, and another half a billion from each of them. Rivian is backed by nearly $1 billion in venture capital, with Alibaba, Kleiner Perkins, Blumberg Capital, Valor Equity Partners, Mithril Capital, Baidu and other big names all backing it. [The Nissan Leaf is Rivian’s flagship car, so I’m not surprised that Nissan is on board, but a billion from Hyundai Motors was also nice.]

That should buy Rivian a lot of time to build a prototype of a C40, buy or lease a bunch of them and run some customizations, before putting it into production. [Think how furious your next car might be once it has more than 10 cosmetic modifications and a good battery.) Rivian will probably sell more electric cars before 2020 than everyone else in the world combined.

But they’re still far from profitable, and if they ever actually do go for an IPO, then the buzz and attention will be intense. They’re up against Tesla, which just delivered its 200,000th car, and Ford, which is planning its own electric revolution in the new year. But that’s not going to slow them down, and I think we’ll see the electric C40 very soon.

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