Rivian expands into fleet business beyond its 'exclusive' Amazon deal

·3 min read

Electric vehicle startup Rivian is expanding a fleet business that appeared to be exclusively tied to Amazon.

The company, in which Amazon holds a 20% stake, will start taking orders for its electric delivery vans in 2022, with plans to deliver them to customers by early 2023, according to a new section of Rivian's website.

Rivian has been working to fulfill a contract to produce 100,000 electric vehicle delivery vans for Amazon through 2024. (Rivian has said it plans to deliver the first 10 of Amazon's order by the end of this year.) That deal appeared exclusive, according to information contained in the S-1 document announcing its plans to go public. However, this new information that shows Rivian is selling to other fleet customers prior to 2024 suggests that its contract with Amazon has some wiggle room.

Neither Amazon nor Rivian could be reached to clarify the terms of the exclusivity.

The new section of the site, which went live Friday and was tweeted out by a few Rivian employees, says customers will be able to use Rivian's online fleet configurator to plan and place fleet orders beginning early next year. Deliveries wouldn't begin until the following year.

The company said it will also sell fleet versions of its R1T electric pickup and R1S electric SUV, which widens the customer base beyond the consumer adventurer that Rivian has been targeting. This move potentially puts Rivian in more direct competition with a variant of Ford's all-electric pickup truck, which is being directly marketed to commercial customers.

The updated website outlines several other products related to the fleet business, including a management platform called FleetOS and charging infrastructure.

Rivian, and Amazon, stand to gain from casting a wider commercial net.

"The success of our business depends on attracting and retaining a large number of customers," reads Rivian's S-1 filing. "If we are unable to do so, we will not be able to achieve profitability."

However, there are risks and unknowns to how many other customers Rivian, which is just starting production of its R1T, can even take on.

Rivian's factory in Normal, Illinois has current capacity to produce up to 150,000 vehicles annually — about 65,000 of which would be for the R1 pickup and SUV and 85,000 for the commercial delivery vans called RCV.

That doesn't mean Rivian will hit that capacity overnight. Rivian has said in an amendment to its S-1 that based on its current production forecast, it expects to fill a preorder backlog of about 55,400 R1 vehicles by the end of 2023.

Rivian's push into the fleet business comes just days before it makes its debut as a publicly traded company. Rivian's valuation at IPO is expected to be as high as $65 billion, but some investors have had their doubts. A report from New Constructs, an investment research software company, released just a few days before Rivian updated its website, finds that Rivian's stock is overvalued and urges investors not to buy when the company goes public this week.

"Rivian has yet to manufacture a meaningful number of vehicles and competes with well-capitalized electric vehicle upstarts as well as incumbents like General Motors (GM) and BMW, which both have decades of experience and multi-billion dollar plans to expand EV production," the report reads.

Despite this, many investors are bullish on the startup and its future. This latest update could sway previously skeptical investors that Rivian has more flexibility and power than previously thought.

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