How a Startup Beat Ford, GM, and Tesla to Market
A little-known startup has taken the automotive world by storm with the world’s first electric truck
For the past 80 years, the automotive industry has been difficult to break into. Incumbents reigned supreme, and startups — much less successful ones — were few and far between.
When electric vehicles were still in their infancy in 2012, Tesla stunned the world by bringing a successful luxury electric vehicle to market. It would take years before traditional automakers turned out a true competitor to the Model S — by that time, Tesla had already established itself with a loyal customer base and fast-growing sales.
Now, much the same as Tesla did, another startup headed by a brilliant founder is knocking on the door of the auto industry. Electric vehicles are far more mature today than when Tesla began mass producing them in 2012, but there are still corners of the market so far untouched.
In the massive passenger vehicle market, the last two segments without electric offerings are pickup trucks and large SUVs. These large vehicles use up a lot of power, which initially made it both technically difficult and cost prohibitive to develop all-electric versions.
But as battery costs dropped and energy density improved, it soon became clear that it was a matter of time before electric trucks were developed. One by one, leading automakers announced their intentions to make electric trucks.
Ford announced an electric version of the bestselling F-150. GM revived the infamous Hummer as a luxurious all-electric truck, to be followed by a cheaper mass-market Chevrolet Silverado. Ram planned an electric version of their truck as well. Tesla collected hundreds of thousands of reservations for its polarizing Cybertruck, and a number of new companies also entered the fray.
Ultimately, they would all fall behind a little-known startup that rolled their first vehicles off the production line just last week.
First To Market
Founded in 2009 by an MIT engineering PhD, Rivian (then going by the less memorable name of Mainstream Motors) initially focused on producing ultra-efficient gas…