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Rivian R3 “has the soul of a rally car”, says CEO

RJ Scaringe sees his new R3 hatchback as a rally stage refugee, plus his plan to sell “millions”

Published: 12 Mar 2024

Rivian’s big reveal event in Laguna Beach last week was supposed to be all about the Tesla Model Y-sized R2… instead it was the surprise debut of smaller models based on the same platform – R3 and R3X – that stole the show. By mashing together hatchback, SUV, retro and futuristic vibes R3 previews a production model due around 2027 that will cost from $35,000 to $40,000 and could be just the ticket for exploding Rivian sales beyond just the US.

Why? Because the R3’s compact proportions and hybrid hatch/crossover styling are right in the slot for Euro-tastes. The fact there are echoes of early VW Golfs, a pinch of Lancia Delta, and some Lada Niva in the silhouette doesn’t hurt either.

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“It's like a crossover meets an SUV, meets a hatch, meets a wagon, meets a bunch of things. We say it has the soul of a rally car,” boss RJ Scaringe explains. “We got to have a little bit of fun with R3X (pictured above) where it's a tri-motor, it's insane performance, there’s torque vectoring. It allows us to take the performance element of the brand and apply it in a meaningful way.”

In person it plays tricks on your eyes – diddy from a distance, actually a fairly substantial crossover up close with back seats for adults, a big boot and a handy split tailgate. Think Hyundai Ioniq 5 N size, another large-ish crossover that’s shaped like something smaller.

So the products are captivating, the ultra-eco minimalist brand image is appealing and distinctive (if a little contradictory when your business is flogging 800bhp+ trucks) but the big question mark now is whether Rivian can keep its investors happy and the lights on long enough to fulfil its ambition of selling hundreds of thousands, if not millions of EVs a year.

Should it do so, this is a company standing on the precipice of production hell. In 2023 Rivian delivered a little over 50,000 of its flagship R1T and R1S models, which is heading in the right direction but a drop in the ocean compared to what comes next. “I didn't start Rivian to be a sub-hundred thousand vehicle a year manufacturer. We started Rivian to be building millions of vehicles in the long term and the path they get there is through R2. The entire future of the business is on this platform,” says Scaringe.

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To begin with the R2 (first deliveries early 2026, starting price $45k) will be built at Rivian’s existing factory in Normal, Illinois, but a new factory being built in Georgia is where the fireworks will happen once the R2 is joined by its little brother R3. And yes, both models will be sold in Europe, although Scaringe doesn’t yet know when. “Both models are designed at their core for both the US and Europe. We haven't said specifically when they come to Europe, we should and we need to, but we recognise how appealing they are in the European market and especially R3 really fits.”

In fifteen short years Rivian has come a hell of a long way from ambitious startup to a potential global EV powerhouse, so we ask Scaringe for what advice he’d give himself from 15 years ago, now? “Just go for it. I didn’t think it would been as hard. I didn’t think it would take as long. I didn’t think supply chains were as complex as they are. I didn’t know managing organisations was as hard as this, but I still would've just said, go for it - you're going to figure out a lot and you're going to learn a tonne.”

Rivian R3X news Top Gear 2024

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