Automobile

Rivian grapples with distribution headaches as customer complaints grow

When Jeff Wells placed a reservation for a Rivian R1T pickup in early 2019, he was one of the first in line for a truck from the Amazon-backed EV startup that at the time promised to tap in to a niche not served by other automakers.

But Wells, an accountant from Southern California, has become increasingly frustrated as he sees others, who placed their order years after him, receive trucks while he keeps waiting.

“It’s just annoying and it feels like there’s no order to how they’re doing things,” he said of Rivian.

Wells is one of dozens of reservation holders who in recent weeks have complained about unreliable delivery timelines and delays in online groups and forums.

The complaints mounted after Rivian Automotive Inc. in late April said it was changing the production sequence of vehicles, prioritizing those with specific interior and exterior color and wheel options.

“Building in few build combinations reduces complexity with our suppliers and in the plant and allows us to build a greater number of vehicles,” Rivian told customers in an email.

That meant many early reservation-holders sticking with their original color preferences had their orders delayed.

Rivian in a statement to Reuters said delivery dates are not just based on the timing of a preorder, and that it was exploring new ways for customers to expedite deliveries.

Rivian’s delivery headaches have not drawn the same attention as the California company’s slashed production plans or its messy communication of vehicle price increases, which it first announced across the board, but later scrapped for existing reservation holders following backlash. Read full story

But delivery woes could prove just as damaging.

While all automakers are struggling with global supply-chain snarls, including a semiconductor shortage and rising raw- materials costs, startups like Rivian have less room to get things right. Large investors, including Ford Motor Co. and Tiger Global Management, have offloaded Rivian stock after the post-IPO lockup period expired.

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