Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe On Production, Amazon, R2 And The Future

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe On Production, Amazon, R2 And The Future

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The last quarter was a turning point for production. It seems. What did you fix? Well, you know, we started production now about 18 months ago, and in the first 12 months we launched three different products the truck, the SUV, and then a commercial van. And the complexity of launching any product is incredibly high. But to launch three products in parallel

with a complex supply chain, we really felt that last year we saw it with shortages of parts, which then led to, you know, shortages in terms of what we were planning to produce. But what we saw in Q2 is really the beginnings of the supply chain now really running in a healthy way. I joke we had a board meeting a few weeks ago and it's the first time in a board meeting where our supply chain slide had no read on it. So supply chain is is is healthy. It's keeping up with production. And importantly, it's not just what we saw in this quarter, but what's to come.

So the continued growth in production output, which is one of the most important levers for us in terms of driving overall, your point is that you have visibility on the supply chain. You see that you have enough parts coming in to to get the ramp. You're expecting more visibility, the supply chain. And then really for us running and operating the plant as intended. So there's there's certainly tons of efficiency improvements that we know that we can make throughout the plant. But we're now at a point where we can be

much more predictable to say we believe we're going to produce X number of vehicles this week, this day, this month. And given that the supply chain confidence is there, and given that our operational sort of experiences is so much stronger, we're able to have a level of predictability for the business that in the first 12 months we really, really didn't have. Some are asking, why didn't you raise guidance then? Because that plant on paper is capable of building many more than 50,000 units. Yeah. You know, one of the other things we've gone through is just being, you know, very much thoughtful and in not wanting to over promise, we want to we want to make sure that we overdeliver on on on our numbers or we deliver on our targets. And you're knowing all the unknowns that still exist in system. The supply chain is much healthier, but wanting to protect for just some of the unknowns that could happen. How much did the introduction of the

Enduro motor have to do with with the ramp in the second quarter? Yes. So we have just as a point of context, we have a quad motor set up in our one vehicles. It's two motors per axle so far, motors per vehicle.

And we've just launched a dual motor setup which leverages a new motor family, which we call the Enduro Motor Family. And that enduro is completely built in-house. The rotor and the are, of course, just like on the launch configuration, we build the inverter in-house. The gearbox in-house only sourced the power semis for the inverter and enduro. We sourced in a really thoughtful way

that gave us enough capacity and much more confidence around that supply chain than some of the challenges that we've had on the launch configuration. And so that not only provides a high confidence production capacity on the enduro, but it also provides risk mitigation on any shortcomings in terms of supply on the quad motor. The other big news of the last five days is that you have a you're out of the United States. Yeah, a small number of Amazon EDV electric delivery vans are being shipped to Europe. Germany in the first instance.

Yeah. Why was that significant milestone? Well, you know, it's it's important to get those vehicles there. Amazon has a lot of a lot of business in Europe, but it also represents not just turning on production of vehicles that get shipped overseas, but all the supporting infrastructure. So we have parts distribution capabilities, we have service capabilities. And the EDV program is really a wonderful way for us to open those markets with highly predictable and planned service intervals and delivery intervals. So it's the beginnings of us opening up

the European market for our products. As you know, I always ask Twitter, What would you ask in this case? RJ Scaringe. Lots of people want to know about the Amazon relationship.

You don't break down production by product type, I'll want to own or EDV, but a lot of people want a sense of how many vans you're building proportionately to your consumer products. What is the main part of the business overall? If you think about over there, over the full year, we've guided to roughly 20% of our production. Is is the commercial vans. You know, as we think about the business going forward, the consumer side of the business will grow disproportionately relative to the commercial side, especially as we bring in our next generation products with the R2 and the R2 platform representing a significant step up in volume and a much lower price point, much larger addressable market without without product. What is the status of the relationship with Amazon? They have exclusivity. Yeah, but you would like to sell vans

others in the future. I mean, the relationship with Amazon is outstanding. The van is loved by the drivers. There's lots of content all over the web and just the creature comforts. We've built in the ease of use.

The operators of the vehicles are feeling it. With with the increased efficiency. So we've we've we've done, I think, a really nice job of capturing that feedback as we went through the development process to make sure that hand delivered. We're now in the final stages of negotiating, allowing us to sell the vehicle outside of the Amazon relationship to others so that the exclusivity provisions that were originally built into the contract accelerating. When we open that up to be able to sell to turn on Amazon. You are running a business and you're

only delivering around 90% of your production at the moment, 90% of your output. How sustainable is that for Rivian? Well, that's just an artifact of I mean, long term, of course, production and deliveries are going to be equal because we're in a ramp curve and because our plant is in the middle of the US and a lot of our demand is on the coast, we build a product, It then has to get loaded into a train or loaded onto a truck and shipped out. So there's a bit of a delay between the produce numbers and the delivered numbers, but over time that becomes de minimis. That becomes a very small difference between production deliveries, which you consider a franchised dealer network or something outside of the current rivian business plan. Or it's just not needed. No, it's not needed. It's we really just are, you know, our plants in normal Illinois, and there's just not a lot of demand immediately adjacent to normal Illinois.

I said the the activity of moving vehicles to the demand centers is is always going to be present and doesn't that doesn't relate to direct or indirect in terms of the sales process. We talk about enduro in this sort of read through Benefits of Power Semi's. What else are you seeing in supply chain? There's a lot of talk at the moment about metals and what China might do that will impact the metals market.

Are you seeing any of that in your discussions with suppliers right now? Well, I mean, the probably the most significant that everyone's watching is lithium hydroxide. And, you know, when we launched front, we were planning the vehicle launches. You know, lithium hydroxide was well under $20 a kg and then spiked up to close to $80 and kg. It's come back down a lot, which is great news for us. I think it's great news for

electrification. So that's probably, I think not just for us, but probably for most manufacturers, been a core focus point just in terms of cost of an EV. But that's not to say we're not paying attention to nickel and some of the other core materials that they're going to battery. And especially in the context of our RJ, I want to take a pause in the sort of minutiae of running a car company and ask about you. You turned 40. He founded this company in 2009. You're a founder CEO. Yeah.

You having fun? I'm having a lot of fun, yeah. Are you really, though? I mean, yes, it's. It's tough, but it's expectedly tough. I think in starting a business and

starting a car company, you don't do that expecting it to be easy. And in some ways, the challenges today are so different than what they were ten years ago, ten years ago. If you have a very small team without enough capital, without a brand that people are excited about. We're sitting here today. Customers are really loving the product. You know, multiple, multiple accolades just around how well-received the product has been.

The brand's really resonating with customers. We have demand is, you know, beyond what we're able to produce today, which while frustrating for customers is a is a good, you know, good situation to be in. And then what's coming next in terms of future technology, both in our one but with our two, is extraordinarily exciting.

You know, I'm a product person, so, you know, for someone that's really focused on products, it's it's always the next thing we're developing that that really gets us excited. Well, one example of that was the decision to to join the North American charging standard NHS. How big a decision was that for you personally? Well, it's interesting. When we made the decision to use six one

now for the road network. Well, when we when we were developing our one and planning its launch, that was at the time really the leading solution. Every OEM and the charging networks were sort of consolidating around that. But the next charger is of course smaller and takes up less footprint in a vehicle. It's an elegant solution, but we didn't really look at that as as an option because it wasn't an open standard. So in test, I made the decision to open that up. It obviously created some unique

opportunities and we, along with others, were able to not only adopt that as the charging port, but but importantly gain access to test the supercharger network, which in parallel to the build out of our Rivian adventure network, provides customers and immediate access starting in 2024 to a very large and very well-built network. Now, that doesn't take away from the importance of building really an adventure network as is. You see new sites are coming online every week, but in the ramp up of that of that network, it's going to start to really feel that in 2024. Wall Street does have some questions. One is about profitability and the path to get there, and the other is about the need to raise more capital. How are you thinking about both of those issues? So on profitability, this is like the number one focus of the business and you can think of it across a couple of key levers, the most significant of which is production ramp. So you've been to our plants.

It's a very large facility. It's designed for a lot of output. When you run a plant like that at low outputs, as we've done really up until fairly recently, just the fixed cost absorption of a facility like that, it it's very challenging. So number one priority across the whole business is production ramp. But closely related to that is also working across every aspect of our cost of goods sold. So building materials, you know, logistics, inbound logistics, driving quality and then efficiency of line operations within the plan to drive cost out to get to a point where the business is not only gross margin positive, but but supports and carries the CapEx load of the rest of the business. It supports overall profitability. With that in mind, why did you walk away

from the JV with Mercedes in Europe? Ultimately, for us, and we've seen this I've talked about this quite a bit since since start of production, we've been really methodically looking at what we're doing and where do we drive priority and focus. And there are so many cool, interesting, exciting things to do. You'll be have the deepest respect for for the team at Mercedes, but it's so important for us to be hyper focused on what are the key biggest levers within the business. And for us it's, it's ramping production of the R1 platform and the EDV platform.

And then of course, what goes into the R2 vehicle and platform, which really introduced a step change in volume for us as a business. And that was the decision. We said R2 has got to be the core focus for us. We've got to make sure it's it's it's executed beautifully and ultimately that will give us a big step in overall output for the company. You are thinking about all aspects of the company and what's to come in the future while handling what's happening now. How is that process for you day to day?

You know, you are engineer by trading, I suppose, or origin, you are founder, CEO. Which one is winning at the moment? Which one is winning? You know, I think, you know, being an engineer, I've often said as a discipline, engineering is is is learning how to thoughtfully and intentionally solve problems. So solving and, you know, complex problems, multivariable problems and and actually translates really well to running a business because effectively, you know, my role is to is to look across the business whether it's the, you know, the commercial side to go to market side of the business or the. Engineering side of the production supply chain. All different aspects, all have different puzzles that need to be figured out, and the nature of the puzzles change with time. They certainly change with scaling.

But what it ultimately comes down to is getting the right team of people together that can at scale solve lots and lots of different challenges in parallel around scaling or around growing the business. And what we've experienced really over the last 18 months is some pretty significant organisational developments and changes where they brought in additional leaders or brought on new leaders. And a big part of what I need to make sure in my capacity that I'm driving is that those teams are working effectively together and of course working towards one goal. But, but the how in terms of how we deliver on working terms up towards that one goal needs to be synchronized so that all the leaders across the business from my direct reports down are acting as much as possible and in a sort of aligned or unified fashion. And that's that sounds like obvious, but it's actually, you know, it takes a lot of effort to drive that. How hard is it to delegate to you? I mean, there are undoubtedly some minutiae of product design or execution that you have an opinion on.

Yeah, I have opinions on a lot of things. So, I mean, in the beginning I was in the very, very beginning I had a computer and I was designing parts and CAD. I don't get to do that anymore, but I'm still way into the details around thinking about improvements to the are one program or platform, but also what's coming in our to but then making sure that the organization is filled with people that are driving innovation across each layer of of of what we build as a company. And so some that innovation may exist in the sourcing realm, it may exist in the manufacturing or manufacturing realm or it may exist in the product from. But those all those innovations need to be tightly coordinated. And that's the the exercise we've gone

through as an organization, growing and learning, looking at our to relative to our one, there's an extreme emphasis on manufacturing innovation. So the way the body structure is put together, in a way the vehicle comes together thinking about the number of seconds or minutes it takes to put a, you know, a certain part of the vehicle together and how the the parts naturally want to come together, easily eliminating parts, eliminating joints. These are really key sort of big considerations and drivers we're pushing across the business. What can you tell me about oh two?

Here's what I know now. Smaller form factor than all one sort, more mass market focus, different price point. Therefore, it's pretty much the extent of what we know. That's pretty accurate. I mean, if you think of r one as the sort of the handshake with the world in terms of what we're doing and how the vehicles positioned the essence of it, the feel of it, and we often talk about it both hopefully enabling but also inspiring people to go do the kinds of things we want to take photographs of that essence. We want to translate into a lower price point and into a smaller form factor.

But the orientation towards active lifestyle, orientation towards living your adventure, whatever that adventure may be, a trip trip into the city or a trip to the beach or a trip mountain biking that percolates across the thousands, I should say, millions of decisions we make in developing. And so how you put bikes on the vehicle to how you store things in the back of the vehicle. So what it's like to put a pad into the vehicle to what it's like to drive on or off road. So I'm immensely excited about what's coming because it I think it takes a lot of what we did in our one, sweetens it, but then puts it into a package that is really accessible for for folks across much lower price point. Is this exciting for the United States or are you thinking about other markets globally? No, it's a global platform, it's size to fit us, Europe, China really nicely. And I, I think it takes what we see

that's connected. So all with the Rivian brand already, which is this idea of enabling and inspiring adventure, as I said. And it just takes it into a price point in the form factor that's it's so accessible relative to where we are today.

The reason I ask is is actually largely about the I.R.A. You think about the price point of all ones, you know, and s also the component base, the supply chain. It partially qualifies and it's excluded from some of the benefits of the I.R.A.. Yeah, but do you see momentum from that legislation when you look at your order book for our one note, our ones largely priced above the price bands and IRA and the requirements for for content, particularly round battery, make it more challenging for you.

Don't make your own battery cells for example yet Yes we buy cylindrical 2170 cells in the case of our one, you know, from from a battery cell supplier and then integrate them into a module, into the module, into a pack on our to the entirety. The program's been set up to make sure that it's IRA compliant. So the sourcing of battery cells where they're produced there, of course, being in United States have. The packs come together, of course, in the States, and then the rest of the vehicle needs to hit the you know, needs to be IHRA compliant because that 7500 our customer facing credit is really important in a vehicle at this price point. You know, the price range in order to

will range from roughly 40 to 60 in 20 $23. So and it evolves. But but in today's dollars it's a it's really important that that 7005 all our credit is built into the price.

So it's about one of the important decisions being supply chain innovation. Does that include de-risking from China in the supply chain? How exposed to you that? Well, you know, and it's a great question. When I think about how our one was sourced, we were sourcing most of the components. So things like brakes or seats or steering wheel or windshield, we were sourcing those and like 2018, 2019. So well before we launched the product and the level of leverage that we had in negotiating pricing, negotiating supply was was really limited. And I mean, that manifests in so many ways. But I mean, I really feel it now as

we're sourcing our to the difference in how the suppliers are showing up. You know, in 2018, 2019, we'd be fighting to get a meeting with, you know, a head of sales from a major supplier was today I'm I'm meeting 1 to 1 with the CEOs of these same companies and we're talking big picture strategy around how we scale together. So just the whole sourcing backdrop that we're developing, the two supply chain around is starting with so much more strength and really we think a much better derisked volume ramp and a much better pricing starting point in terms of the cost of those components. Clare McDonough and Frank Kline, how do you rank them joining the company in this sort of list of important moves over the last couple of years? So Claire joined See fit more than a year right around, I guess a year before we went public? Yes. Which was great because she was she was just phenomenal at helping us to put together everything that it takes to to go public as a company, both in terms of the things that are external facing, but also like from an accounting process point of view and an internal process point of view. And then Frank joined a little more than a year ago and he's been really great in helping us ramp up and scale up our production organization and our manufacturing operations organization, which we've been able to do it without them. I guess my my question is, since

joining, you know, has it been a contributing factor to the kind of change in Rivian fortune, especially in the last month or so? Oh, I mean, Claire Frank and many, many others, you know, Rivian can only be as is, I would say, like this Rivian's success is the result of of lots and lots of people working very hard and working, as I said before, and highly coordinated ways. And that's what makes, I think, the automotive business so unique and so challenging. If you think about a vehicle, it's not it's not even possible for a single person to design an entire vehicle themselves. There's maybe on the order of 10 million decisions that need to be taken in developing something like a car. So, you know, if you can make $50 a day, it would take a very, very long time if one person were to do it. So you need a team of people that can make many decisions in parallel per day to drive the product to come together. And that's at the development level.

You have a supply chain layer on top of any factory layer and those have to all be integrated. So this is this isn't like we're designing a coffee cup. It's a really, really complex product with a complex supply chain. And all those pieces have to, you know, interconnect really, really thoughtful classes. And the interesting last month that in

the quarter currently we'll see all one ask the SUV output overtake that of all one T and also the pre order book is predominantly all one s at this stage. What is what do those two pieces of data tell you about demand? Well, we start with the first vehicle. When we started, production was 20 and up through the end of Q1. Q1 of this year, roughly 75% of our production was for R, one was r1t, and the demand mix for R1 s relative to R1 TS, roughly 75% R1 s relative formality. So we were you could think of it as producing a disproportionately large number of R1 TS relative to the demand ratios between us. We're now getting that to a point where the production matches demand.

So production of R1 us relative to 20 should roughly match. You know what, what of course demand is. And for the next few quarters we're going to try to catch up a little bit. R1 as we know for any R1 reservation holders out there, we know we know you're waiting for your vehicles and this is a lot of froth. Situation with how long the backlog is.

So we're that's something we talk about literally every day is how do we how do we catch up on the backlog, which is a great from a business point of view, it's a great thing to have such a large backlog. But from a customer point of view, you know, it's challenging to know you have to wait so long, particularly for an R.A. How does RJ Scaringe think about marketing? You know, I think about the pre-order book and lots of people say, well, you know, rivian's for the early adopters, but how do you I know it's coming, but in the next immediate turn of a couple of years, we're going to see Super Bowl ads from Rivian, too. You know, this is now one of the most powerful voices in building brand awareness. And building awareness for the company is actually our customers.

So the level of customer satisfaction that we're delivering is extraordinarily high. J.D. Power does a they do an annual survey of brand satisfaction, and it's independent. So it's not what we said. It's what our customers are saying to J.D. Power as they run this survey. And in our first year with our first

product, we came out number one. So ahead of all of the brands that have the highest level of customer engagement, customer satisfaction and with, you know, of course, the key question, would you buy Rivian again being the highest? This is really important for us. So we know that the customers that are experiencing I mean, absolutely love it. They love to talk about it. They get asked questions about it.

And we find that that flywheel of more evidence being on the road and more customers talking about their experience with the company, with the products, that really helps seed more and more customers. And we're seeing it especially as we open up new markets. You know, the R one. S is starting to appear a lot more in New York. A lot of eyeballs on those vehicles in New York drives this flywheel of demand. We're seeing It's pull up, you know, in

the tri state area. As a result of that, we write a lot that Rivian's November 2021, IPO was the sixth biggest in US history. Or another way of looking at it, the biggest since Facebook now known as matter and then 2022 was really hard from a stock market perspective.

So you worry about that. How much time do you spend thinking about it or your stock's up for a sixth straight day at the time that we're talking trading at its highest level since February? Yeah. I mean, do you care? I mean, the the thing about we went public at a great time. The market was very is a very bullish market and a lot of it raised a lot of capital.

2022 we know you know, 2020 is a hard year from a market point of view. It's a hard year for us from a ramp and supply chain point of view. But ultimately our success in the long term is really going to be determined by how effective we are, building great products that customers love, and of course, doing that properly and we do those things well. Sure, price takes care of itself. So organizationally, internally, we, of course, you know, are cognizant, aware of what's happening from a you know, from a share price point of view. But our daily activities, our weekly

activities are focused purely on how do we create value for the business, how do we make sure we're delivering amazing customer experiences and and how do we of course, as I said before, drive towards profitability? What do you still want to fix Arabia? What do you think still needs to be fixed in the organization or on the product side? I think I'd probably look at it slightly different. I'd say there's at the product level, there's all kinds. There's daily changes happening on the vehicle. So every day we have a few updates that go into the vehicle from a hardware point of view. Every few weeks we have a new software

release that comes out, so we see the software continue to get better and that's sort of incrementally day by day or week by week, improving what the products that we have on the road today. The big next step is is delivering on air to program and that that's the consolidated aggregated set of learnings that have been sort of accumulated through the launch and ramp of our one that'll be baked into our two. When you and I spoke in April last year, you would make this point that, you know, I get the CEOs and the suppliers in to the factory and I say, Look, here's the factory, what we're capable of doing. How have you taken that experience? As frustrating as it was it all one to change how you go about sourcing components for our team? Well, this is it's a really good point. So when we saw each other, it was it was relatively early in the ramp. And what we did later in that year, so late 2022, is we brought all of our suppliers to the plant. We had a supplier day and the purpose of

that was to say, okay, 2023, we can't have a situation where a line down on a daily basis because of shortage of supply. In layman's terms, you mean the line being paused because you had production lines stopping because we ran out of a single part and you know, we had this hundreds of hundreds of our suppliers there, senior leaders, CEOs, senior executives from the suppliers. And I said, I want every one of you to look to your left and look to your right and recognize that the volume that you're going to get from us in terms of demand is based upon how effective all of you collectively are delivering on our on our asks. And that proved to be a galvanizing moment where. Getting all of our suppliers together in the room together room at the same time helped ensure that this year we've really removed those supplier constraints we felt in 2020, 2022. Now, of course, that translates into what we do in order to and as I said, the whole negotiating backdrop and the level of leverage that we have is so different than what we had in our one, that the the health and robustness of supply chain of the supply chain when we launch our two will be materially different than what we launched with with our one.

What do you want Rivian to be? And I'm thinking about the Amazon ban. EDV You know, a lot of focus on the consumer car in this conversation, but Amazon is also taking delivery of more and more EVs nationwide. Internationally, it's a core part of your business, but you're running three product lines at once and then you want to bring our two on in next years time. I mean, well, the way we when we think about what we focus on as a business and what we do at everything funnels through sort of one core decision criteria, which is how do we maximize impact, how do we as a business have the most impact on driving what is, you know, you could argue a once in a many generation shift in transportation from a fossil fuel based transportation energy system to a renewable based energy and transportation system. And somehow miraculously, like we as a generation happen to be alive right at that inflection point, right at this point of change, when 100 years from 150 years from now, we're going to look back and say, you know, thankfully in the 2020s and 2030s, society rapidly moved off of fossil fuels towards towards like electrified vehicles, renewable energy. And so when we think about what we do,

we think about how can we drive the most impact within that context. And of course, the EDV program represents represented for us an opportunity for for us to add a stabilizing element to our business, but to also open the world's eyes to the need to electrify logistics. And we knew that when Amazon made that commitment to us and we made the comment to Amazon that we would be raising the bar for all other last mile logistics providers to say we better electrify as well.

So we see impact not just through our own actions but through the the echo of competition. So we greatly value competition. We think it's actually one of the most important things for this transition, and the same is true on consumer. So we when we I remember when I would meet with suppliers to talk about the 20, they'd say to me, who would ever buy an electric pickup? And I'd, of course, make the pitch to say why we think, you know, electrifying the pickup space is important. And that vehicle helped galvanize and shift mindset around the necessity of electrifying pickups. And we now see multiple offerings, each

serving customers in a different and unique way. And that's outstanding. That's exactly what we wanted. And then we look at the the the Artemis program and what that represents. We see an opportunity to create truly a beautifully executed product with a vertically integrated electronics and software stack that that delivers a customer experience that really we haven't seen in this type of a vehicle, certainly this type of form factor and at that price. So again, we hope to raise the bar with what our two does and of course will inspire competition. But that's that is the point.

But continuing to lead through the product innovations and those product innovations link to, of course, how we drive cost and manufacture innovation. But that needs to continue to lead the way. Finished on the word lead. So and there you're on Twitter and on Instagram, but not as some other electric vehicle companies CEOs are. What is your plan for yourself in terms of how you communicate, how long you stick around as CEO? It's a it's a well-trodden Silicon Valley story. Founder, CEO, Sam, go to become an

executive chairman. So I'm going to do something completely different. Start a new company. I don't know if anyone's ever asked you that before. I don't know either. Well, since I was probably about this tall, I, I wanted to start this company and it was born out of this sort of deep love of automobiles, which then sort of over time, I realized that those things that I loved were causing so many of our world's challenges from, you know, all of our major cities around the planet having air quality issues to, of course, the biggest one being that climate change and the effects of climate change were experiencing already.

So some of the geopolitical challenges we have and so sort of as I got older, I was inspired to say, Let me go work on that big set of challenges. And it's what I sort of think about when I wake up. It's what I think about when I go to sleep. It's what I'm deeply passionate about. So I'm excited to continue driving and growing the business as we continue to work to to push the solutions to solve this this major shift forward.

RJ Scaringe Rivian CEO. Thank you.

2023-07-14 10:25

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