Rivian says lower-cost second generation EVs to help in push for profitability

By Akash Sriram and Abhirup Roy

(Reuters) -Rivian will be able to slash a fifth of its material costs from electric SUVs and pickups by the end of 2024, CEO RJ Scaringe said on Thursday, after a recent factory overhaul and a vehicle redesign to aid its push to profitability.

Shares of Rivian fell 2% after the company stuck to its largely flat annual production growth forecast yet again.

The stock had risen 23% after its best-ever one-day gain of 23% on Wednesday after Volkswagen said it would invest up to $5 billion in Rivian as part of a joint venture for its EV architecture and software.

Scaringe also said material cost for its less expensive and smaller R2 vehicles will be 45% lower than its flagship R1 vehicles.

“Incredible focus and discipline around electronics in the vehicle will represent one of the biggest cost savings in R2 relative to R1,” Scaringe said at the company’s first investor day.

Shareholders have been eagerly looking for details on the company’s push to profitability as the EV industry tackles a sharp slowdown in demand.

The move is widely seen as a “vote of confidence” in the American automaker’s prospects as it looks to build less expensive R2 and R3 crossovers to attract masses and is expected to help reduce operating expenses with scale.

“The VW deal gives Rivian the potential to boost cashflows in the long run via the licensing of technologies and architecture to VW’s various brands – particularly the high-end resilient-volume ones such as AudiĀ andĀ Porsche,” said Sandeep Rao, analyst at Leverage Shares.

Rivian shut down its plant at Normal, Illinois for three weeks in April to make the changes, including simplifying processes and removing equipment at the facility, and removing over 500 parts from the vehicles in an effort to make them cheaper to build.

A similar exercise last year helped Rivian cut 35% in material cost from its electric vans, Scaringe told Reuters last week.

Amazon.com-backed Rivian lost about $39,000 per vehicle sold in the first quarter, but it reiterated that the company will post its first quarterly gross profit in the fourth quarter.

The company’s presentation during investor day also teased five new models under wraps, with three vehicles under the “affordable mass market” category.

Demand for electric vehicles has faltered amid high borrowing costs, and as buyers turn to cheaper gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles.

Rivian expects to produce between 9,100 and 9,300 units in the second quarter and hand over between 13,000 and 13,300 vehicles to customers in the April-June period, it said in a presentation for the investor day. The company has stuck to its production forecast of 57,000 for the year – roughly the same as 2023.

Wall Street had expected quarterly deliveries of 10,282 units and production of 9,369 vehicles, when the company reports quarterly figures on July 2, according to analysts polled by Visible Alpha.

The demand slowdown has hit even market leader Tesla, which is expected to report its first drop in annual sales this year. It has slashed prices and is offering incentives to sell more vehicles.

Rivian is on stronger footing than most EV startups. Some of its peers such as Fisker have filed for bankruptcy.

Rivian had nearly $6 billion of cash and cash equivalents at the end of the March quarter.

To save cash, Rivian plans to start making the R2 vehicles at its existing Illinois facility and instead of a planned plant in Georgia. The company is also renegotiating supplier contracts and building some parts in house to better control costs.

(Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru and Abhirup Roy in San Francisco; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel)