Like the sad (sick) superficial materialist I sometimes am, I fell pretty hard for the Rivian R1S when I first saw it on-line almost four years ago. The squared off looks harkened back to the 70-series Land Cruiser. And the performance numbers were hard to comprehend. And the interior, sumptuous. I watched videos, read about the founder, and coughed up $1k as a downpayment on a launch green with a limestone interior with wood accents.
One friend, who for some crazy reason thinks I’m too frugal for my own good said, “You’ll never follow through.” I immediately looked forward to proving him wrong one day in the not-to-distant future.
And then Rivian, almost as if they were conspiring with my friend, strung me along for three and a half years with false promises of delivery date after pushed delivery date. It felt like going to a restaurant and being told the wait will be five minutes, and then at fifty-five minutes, you seriously doubt whether you’ll ever be seated.
We interrupt these proceedings to state the obvious, this is a quintessential “first world” problem for which I seek no sympathy. It’s meant more as a free-market capitalism case study.
In hindsight, I fell for Rivian’s Apple-like marketing. The glossy profiles of the brilliant, hard-working CEO coupled with videos of the R1S tearing across South America covered in Andean dust. Unlike Rivian however, Apple is run by a keen operator whose genius is mastering supply chains.
During delay two or three or four, I lose track, right before RIVN went public, reports surfaced of a top female executive leaving amidst allegations of gender discrimination and a “toxic bro culture”. More recently, several other top executives jumped ship.
Sidenote. I wasn’t the only who was hoodwinked by Rivian’s mystique. Not even close. RIVN’s initial public offering price was $72/share and over the next few months it skyrocketed to $172. After thinking hard about investing in the initial offering, I wisely decided not to. Today, RIVN closed at $12.82.
Rivian’s communication with reservation holders was always poor. Of course, if in mid 2019 they had been completely honest and said, we’re confident you’ll take delivery by the close of 2023, very few people would’ve sent them $1k.
Fast forward to today. Seemingly every week some combination of new electric cars, trucks, and SUVs are announced. At present, I dig the Polestar 3. And recently, every couple of weeks, Tesla has been leveraging its market share to lower its prices, and thereby turning up the heat on every new entrant. Today, you can buy two Model Ys for the cost of one Rivian. And the Model Ys qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit while the Rivians do not.
Also, over the last two years, as people have taken delivery of their Rivians, I have perused on-line forums to get a feel for owners’ experiences. In short, the reviews are mixed. Of biggest concern to me was the large number of people who said the truck drove quite a bit better than the SUV. And the talk of wind noise, poor service, and “vampire” battery drain, all left me questioning whether I have it in me to be an early adaptor. Those concerns coupled with the fact that the nearest service center is a three-hour roundtrip lead me to prove my friend right.
I probably should’ve done what so many others are, taken delivery and then sold it since initial reservation holders like me are paying 15-20% less than the “price-adjusted” Rivians currently for sale. But I just wanted to wash my hands of the planned purchase and so I mailed the recently arrived charger back.
UPS confirms that Rivian received the charger two weeks ago, but Rivian can’t process the return, and therefore, hasn’t returned my deposit yet.
Here’s the most recent “explanation” from my “Rivian Guide”:
Thanks for reaching out.
To be transparent, this is an ongoing issue that I have surfaced to upper leadership.
We’re working on a solution to get wall charger return labels out faster as well as return processing times expedited.
Many of my colleagues are running into the same bottleneck and we are working diligently to get this moving faster for all.
Thank you for your continued patience.
Have a nice evening and we will be in touch soon, hopefully with good news!”
Had I written back to Alicia, I would’ve written “Dear Alicia, Whatever patience I had nearly four years ago, I’ve lost.”
No matter how great the vehicle, if a company can’t deliver in three and half years and can’t process a returned charger in two weeks time, it’s going to get destroyed by equally hungry, but far more competent rivals.