Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe says it's changing mindsets about what's 'possible in an electric vehicle'

A common complaint about electric cars is that they are expensive. That's why Rivian, the electric car maker from Irvine, California, has launched three new models to meet this “huge need in the market,” according to RJ Scaringe, the company's founder and CEO.

“If you're in the market for a $45,000 electric car, you have an amazing array of options from Tesla. But in terms of really compelling options, there aren't a lot out there,” Scaringe told ABC News shortly after the company launched its R2. R3 and R3X models.

Scaringe said the R2, which he described as a mid-size SUV, will attract more price-conscious drivers. The R2, which is available for pre-orders on Rivian's website, can have a range of up to 300 miles and starts at $45,000. Drivetrain configurations include single motor, dual motor and triple motor (two motors in the rear and one in the front). The SUV can also accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds.

The R3's shorter wheelbase makes the crossover more driveable and maneuverable, according to Scaringe. The R3X is the performance variant that has “dynamic on- and off-road capabilities.” Rivian did not share pricing for the R3, indicating only that it will cost less than the R2.

Most importantly, Scaringe said these new models charge from 10% to 80% in less than 30 minutes and connect to a Tesla Supercharger without an adapter (the North American Charging Standard – NACS – is native to the R2 and R3).

“The R2 has many applications and many different use cases,” Scaring said, adding that Rivian is also working to expand its range. Rivian Adventure NetworkMore than 600 sites are expected to be established in the next few years. “It represents a vehicle and a platform.”

Rivian announced on Friday that it had received more than 68,000 reservations for the R2 in less than 24 hours. Enthusiastic customers, be prepared to wait: the attractively designed SUV won't be available until the first half of 2026.

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The company, which quickly won over motorists with the luxury R1T pickup and R1S SUV, has seen growing pains; Executives have lowered prices to be competitive and the company has yet to turn a profit. Rivian reported a net loss of $5.4 billion last year and cut its workforce by 10%. The company's plan to build the R2 at its new Georgia plant to conserve cash has been put on hold. The R2 will now be manufactured in Illinois.

Scaringe spoke to ABC News about the new models and the challenges Rivian faces. The interview below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: You've just unveiled three new models, which are part of your plan to make the brand accessible to more people. Who is the target customer for the R2, R3 and R3X and how do they compare in terms of range and price?

A: The R2 was intended to be released as a platform and vehicle [it] Something that is more accessible to more people… The R2 has the ability to penetrate a much larger buyer audience because of the price point.

The range on the R2 is over 300 miles. The starting price will be at $45,000 and that really fits the market. The average price of a new car in the United States is just under $50,000, so we price it below the average price of a new car in the United States. Being a mid-sized SUV, the R2 has many applications and suits many different use situations.

Q: Will the R2 compete with the Tesla Model Y?

A: Their prices are very similar. Seven percent of new car sales last year were electric. With R2, we're giving customers a choice – and it's really compelling.

Q: The R2 won't be available until early 2026. Why will it take two years to bring this low-priced electric car to market, especially since your competitors are introducing cheaper models more quickly?

A: I always describe vehicle development as having thousands of components that need to work in unison – so condense the supply chain, test all those components, and test the systems at the vehicle level. There are thousands and thousands of decisions that need to happen.

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With our R1, this is a best-selling vehicle over $70,000 and has the highest customer satisfaction rating by customer reviews and Consumer Reports. We saw this incredible enthusiasm for what we were building but at a higher price in the premium space. With the R2, we wanted to take all that success and apply it to this low price point. But this means that the products must be well developed. Therefore, it is not just about developing the product, but ensuring that the production process is carried out flawlessly.

Question: There are concerns that the average American is not interested in an electric car. What do you think? Are you having trouble convincing Americans to switch to battery power?

A: No, I want to talk about that. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the causality of this slowdown in growth. Note that growth slows down. It's still growing — the prevalence of electric vehicles is growing year over year — but the reality is that there aren't a lot of great options out there.

If you're in the market for a $45,000 electric car, you have a dizzying array of choices from Tesla, but in terms of truly compelling options, there aren't a lot of them. This is in stark contrast to what you have at [internal combustion engine] A world where you have everything from cars to minivans to trucks to SUVs to crossovers. You have very few options in the low-priced EV space.

So, with R2, we'll be giving customers a very different choice than what exists today and we're really optimistic about what we'll see in terms of reaction. It's not like we're going to get 100% of the market to convert [to electric vehicles] Overnight. But we can say with certainty that it will turn out. In a number of states, this will be policy driven. By 2035 onwards, you won't be able to buy a non-electric car in California. This is the case in a number of other states as well. Most countries have committed to this similar level of electricity. So, we'll see this change really start to accelerate over the next decade.

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Q: What is the biggest obstacle facing the company? Is it high interest rates? Slowing EV growth curve?

A: Right now, our primary focus is on driving efficiency in our business. As we start to achieve more scale, we make sure that there is a very clear line of sight to profitability, to getting to the overall profitability of the business, and through that, driving efficiency in how we launch our future products.

But efficiency and cost management have been the absolute focus for us as a company.

Q: The company recently laid off 10% of its workforce to cut costs. How do you balance cutting costs and launching a new model?

A: Some of the hardest decisions we have to make are when we have to focus on a very specific, targeted set of goals and adjust the team structure and size to achieve that. We truly drive efficiency in the way we work, ensuring that the size, structure and layout of the organization is geared to our goals.

Q: For people interested in purchasing Rivian, what do you want them to know about the brand?

A: As a company, we have deep principles in how we make decisions. Our product family, the way we develop technology, is set up to ensure the products themselves deliver real impact. [The vehicles] Changing mindsets regarding what is possible in an electric vehicle, but also creating an amazing customer experience.

We're very customer focused and very focused on creating these truly one-of-a-kind experiences.

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