Rivian Rolls Back Price Increase After Making Everyone Angry

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

On Tuesday, Rivian announced it would be increasing vehicle pricing by roughly 20 percent to account for higher inflationary pressures and higher component costs. It’s not the first electric vehicle startup to do so, or even the first automotive business that realized the hectic economic situation has created a window for expanding profit margins. But it was one of the few to get slapped in the face, metaphorically, after trying to get away with it.

Shares of the company began plummeting almost immediately as it endured widespread criticism, then people started canceling reservations. The plan would have made the $67,500 Rivian R1T electric pickup an $80,000 vehicle, while Rivian would have tacked on an additional $10,000 to the R1S SUV for a new ballpark total of $85,000. This included preorders, which would help to explain why everyone went bananas. But that particular aspect of the plan has been abandoned in an effort to save face and money.

Prices for preorders (as of March 1st) will roll back to their previous sum. Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe even issued a formal apology, adding that customers who decided to cancel their orders can have them back at the original rates.

“Earlier this week, we announced pricing increases that broke the trust we have worked to build with you. Since originally setting our pricing structure, and most especially in recent months, a lot has changed. The costs of the components and materials that go into building our vehicles have risen considerably,” wrote Scaringe. “Everything from semiconductors to sheet metal to seats has become more expensive and with this we have seen average new vehicle pricing across the U.S. rise more than 30 [percent] since 2018. Given our build lead up times, we need to plan production costs not only for today, but also for the future.”

If we’re going to suddenly start tacking five-figure price adjustments onto vehicles that already seemed kind of expensive due to inflation, we might as well all start buying bicycles and digging victory gardens. EVs were supposed to be less susceptible to economic pressures, all while offering lower manufacturing costs and lessened manpower. Has Rivian’s smaller size made it impossible to conduct business in a cost-effective manner? Are EVs not all they’re cracked up to be? Is the economy really in such a bad state? Or is cooperate greed just at an all-time high, with Rivian accidentally pushing people past their financial breaking point?

“As we worked to update pricing to reflect these cost increases, we wrongly decided to make these changes apply to all future deliveries, including pre-existing configured preorders,” Scaringe continued. “We failed to appreciate how you viewed your configuration as price locked, and we wrongly assumed the announced Dual-Motor and Standard battery pack would provide configurations that would deliver price points similar to your original configuration. While this was the logic, it was wrong and we broke your trust in Rivian.”

How silly of people to assume the price they were told would also be the price they’d end up paying.

In an attempt to be fair, I suppose we can mention that automotive transactions have been stuck at record highs for months. Regardless of who is doing the math, new vehicle prices have skyrocketed over the last twelve months and are averaging near $48,000. While this is largely the result of dealers gouging customers while inventories have remained brutally low (a trend several automakers, including GM, said they would continue indefinitely), inflation has played a relevant factor in obliterating factory incentives and public stupidity acceptance has allowed markups to continue.

A lot of companies don’t want to see this tainting their profit margins and have come up with a few interesting solutions, the worst of which is to simply make products substantially more expensive in a surprise announcement.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk quickly took to Twitter to insult the company, stating that Rivian’s “negative gross margin will be staggering”, adding that it would be practically impossible for other firms to make affordable electric pickup trucks if this is how business needs to be done. Though Tesla’s Cybertruck has also been delayed, allowing legacy manufacturers to beat it to the punch with models like the Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer EV, and the company likewise has a habit of making sudden pricing changes.

Considering Rivian’s existing business relationship with T. Rowe Price, Amazon, and the Ford Motor Company, I’m a little surprised to see it freaking out about finances. The company has been expanding like wild and currently has facilities scattered across the United States, with additional locations in Canada and the United Kingdom. I’ve even seen a couple of Rivian R1Ts on the road. But the company’s share price has been on the decline after an impressive IPO in November of 2021. This could be due to fears of the Fed raising interest rates or people losing faith in tech-focused stocks. Whatever the case, it’s hard to imagine its latest decision turning things around as quickly as it screwed them up — apology or not.

[Images: Rivian; Amazon]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • MitchConner MitchConner on Mar 04, 2022

    Gee, if manufacturers all just adopt a direct to consumer sales approach -- everything will be so much better. The savings by eliminating those evil dealer middlemen will be passed along to consumers. We'll have fixed pricing that will never, ever change. I can go on my computer and order the exact car I want with the click of a button -- and it'll be delivered to my door in 15 minutes. The lion will lay down with the lamb. The rivers will flow with milk and honey. Elon Musk will figure out how to turn depleted batteries into Hershey bars -- with your choice of nuts! One day, the simple minded will figure out the dealer model is the best way for consumers to buy a car -- as long as they have a functioning brain and a spine.

    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Mar 04, 2022

      An idealized dealer model where the manufacturers and dealers are on equal footing, maybe. The one we have today is a straightforward case of legislative capture, where the dealers have sufficient political power at the state level to maintain anticompetitive franchise laws that allow them to extract economic rents without providing any value in return except surplus foursquare worksheets and a bad image for the entire auto industry.

  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Mar 06, 2022

    look at all the fox news grandpa's sticking up for Trump, Gene Simmons, Mike Pillow and Putin

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Mar 07, 2022

      Look at you making more nonsensical and unrelated political posts like the uninformed fnckhead you are. Troll somewhere else, then go fnck yourself cheese d!ck

  • J I haven't owned a sedan since like 2011 had a ford fusion and impala then I discovered hatchbacks beats an SUV but the amount of stuff I can do with my little hatchbacks leaves sedan owners and even some SUV and truck owners surprised
  • Dougjp It seems like I'm in a minority by rejecting CUV/SUVs and wanting "cars" instead. Its because, comparing apples to apples (same specs), I don't want (a) worse performance, (b) worse handling, (c) worse fuel economy, (d) worse road & wind noise and (e) higher cost. I'm quite willing to PAY for shipping that costs way less than 1% of the difference between the cost of a car and a comparable CUV/SUV, to buy a bulky piece of furniture from a store that doesn't provide free shipping. Which I would seldom buy anyway. The problem is, people don't think logically, and would rather default to herd mentality. Its the same as why people buy "off road vehicles", complete with ugly add on patch body work to "look the part", then they never go off road.
  • FreedMike How about one for a brown diesel wagon?
  • Lou_BC “Can the sedan be saved?" Big V8's gave Dodge products some extra life. Kinda like a pacemaker/defibrillator in a lifetime pack/day smoker.................... People want easy access/egress, good visibility, dad/mom bod room, and a bit of cargo space.
  • Conslaw I rented an Altima for a 2,000 mile drive in 2019. It was a fantastic vehicle for that purpose. It had all the features we could want, was quiet, comfortable, peppy, and delivered 37-40 MPG, including stretches with 80 mph speed limits. I'd like to see any CUV do that.