Electric vehicle maker Rivian is expanding into Austin with a service center that will also double as a place for its Central Texas customers to pick up their new rides.
Rivian — considered a rival of Austin-based Tesla — adds to the city’s growing hub of electric vehicle companies with its new 24,000-square-foot center, which opened last month in North Austin near the Crestview neighborhood.
Irvine, Calif.-based Rivian, founded in 2009 with a goal of producing vehicles that are “rugged, luxurious and battery powered,” makes an electric sport utility vehicle and a pickup truck.
Its new Austin site will employ up to a few dozen people and provide service for Rivian vehicles in the region, as well as a place for customers to pick up preordered vehicles or view vehicles in person before making purchases. It also will provide Rivian owners in the Austin area with select mobile services to homes and businesses.
Similar to Tesla, Rivian customers make purchases online instead of through dealerships. In addition to providing a place for customers to pick up their vehicles, the Austin center will deliver and service electric delivery vehicles for Amazon, which is attempting to make its delivery fleet more environmentally friendly, once those vehicles come to market. Amazon owns 17.7% of Rivian, while Ford owns 11.4%.
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Currently, Rivian’s two main vehicles include its pickup truck, the R1T, which starts at $67,500 and is one of the first electric pickup trucks on the market. Its selling points include a range of 315 miles, the ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, a towing capacity of up to 11,000 pounds and off-road capability. Rivian’s SUV has the same range, off-road abilities and acceleration, and the company says it can tow up to 7,700 pounds.
Rivian started producing vehicles in September 2021 and completed just over 1,000 vehicles last year. This year, the company has a full-year target of 25,000 vehicles and has produced over 14,000 so far.
But it has faced headwinds in recent weeks, after announcing it will be voluntarily recalling nearly all of the vehicles it has produced, because a fastener connecting the front upper control arm and steering knuckle may not have been “sufficiently torqued” in some vehicles. Under the recall, the fasteners will be checked at Rivian service centers and tightened if needed.
Regardless, Armen Dekmezian, delivery mobile operations manager of the new Austin service center, said Texas is one of the company’s largest markets outside of California and it has big plans here.
“Texas is historically one of the largest new car markets in the United States, so we definitely want to focus on Texas. And Austin, being a tech town, our product definitely caters to the audience,” he said.
Rivian’s Austin center is expected to deliver 42% of preorders in Texas. That entails thousands of preorders, the company said, primarily for customers who live within a couple hours of the Austin center.
Dekmezian said the company targets adventurous consumers and one goal of the service center is to educate people about how Rivian vehicles would fit into their lifestyles.
“People are fascinated by the design of the vehicle,” Dekmezian said. “We have thousands of preorders in Austin, so we have a lot of excited fans ready to get their hands on a vehicle. We’re happy to show them. We want to share that excitement with them.”
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The move into Austin marks the latest Texas expansion for the company. Its first service center opened in Houston in April, and its second opened in Dallas in August. The company said it’s in process of recruiting employees for the Austin location, as well as for the Dallas and Houston locations.
The opening of the facility in Austin comes as the city’s status as an EV hub continues to grow, along with the number of people in Austin who say they’re interested in owning EVs.
Electric vehicles make up just over 2% of all vehicle registrations in Travis County, with 21,599 EVs registered as of early October, according to state registration data compiled by clean-energy advocates.
In terms of raw numbers, Travis County has more electric vehicles than any other county in the state, and EVs also make up a higher percentage of its vehicle registrations than in any other county. Neighboring Williamson County and Hays are also seeing upticks in EV registrations, with 7,748 and 1,994, respectively.
The figures include some Rivian owners. In Travis County, 92 people have registered Rivian R1T pickups as of early October. In Williamson County, 20 people have registered either a Rivian R1T or R1S SUV, and 21 people in Hays have done the same. By comparison, there are thousands of Tesla models registered in Travis County.
Dekmezian said Austin is ideal for EV growth because the local tech community is excited about the vehicles and the infrastructure already exists.
“People have already seen the value of owning an EV, particularly in a time when we are seeing a rise in gas prices,” he said. “Austin in a very green-conscious city. Most of our customers here are into sustainability (and) technology, and also economic factors are pushing people towards EVs.”
Tyler Schuetze, acting manager of the Austin service department for Rivian, said Austin’s attitude toward new things also helps fuel excitement.
“Everyone in Austin is already ready for innovation, change and the next thing. It’s a very open city to it,” Schuetze said. “There’s such a large base that’s excited for EVs overall. Just the fact that we are here, that the trucks and SUVs are present in Austin. They’re just excited to be around it.”
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Rivian joins a growing number of electric vehicle companies setting up shop in the Austin-area. Tesla, which announced late last year it would move its headquarters to Austin, has started rolling out vehicles from its $1.1 billion manufacturing facility in southeastern Travis County. The company plans to produce its Cybertruck, Semi, Model 3 company sedan, Model Y and batteries at the site.
Lesser-known companies — including Hylliion, which was founded in Pittsburgh in 2015 but is now based in Cedar Park — also call Austin-area home. Hylliion designs and installs gear that enables commercial vehicles, such as semi-tractors and tractor-trailers, to run on electricity. The company went public in 2021.
In Round Rock, startup Ayro makes purpose-built electric utility vehicles for micro-distribution and last-mile delivery. The company designs and manufactures its utility vehicles for a range of uses and customers, including universities, restaurants and pharmacies.
Round Rock is also home to Volcon, a company that makes electric off-road vehicles, such as motorcycles and utility terrain vehicles. But the company has scrapped its plans to expand into Cedar Park, and it shut down its Round Rock manufacturing facility, opting instead to have its vehicles made by third-party automotive supplier GLV Ventures.
Editor’s note: This story has been revised to correct the spelling of Tyler Schuetze’s name.