The part on Rivian's whole reason for being was interesting.
"When I started, the strategy was to build a sports car, I used a sports car to build the brand and worked on that, built a prototype, built a thing that in a video would look real, but was 0.1% real. There wasn't a single supplier-sourced component on it. It was really a hacked-together car. I came to the realization—and it was almost something we knew really early on, but it became more and more clear over time—that the product plan and the strategy just wasn't strong enough. It wasn't a big enough idea. So at the end of 2011, I made the decision to shelve that and pivot essentially to a new thing. But it wasn't as if we went to bed on a Friday and woke up on a Monday and it was like, 'Here's the strategy all clearly laid out. '
"It was more of a thing where we said, "We're not going to do this. Let's now figure out what we want to do." And we essentially started thinking how do we create a brand and a product portfolio in a company that maximizes impact? That goes into segments that shift the way people think about electrification, but I'd say just as important, creates the biggest opportunity to disrupt existing expectations of trade-offs? Trade-offs between on-road capability and off-road capability, refinement and utility. And then importantly, that all comes together to build a brand that is really scalable—that can scale to different segments, price points, and form factors, and scale globally. Essentially the brand we wanted to build was the brand that would enable doing things like this [Trans-America Trail]; to do the things you want to take a photograph of and the things you want to remember for 25 years.
"Once we figured that out, then it was, 'All right, what type of vehicle do I want to build?' It iteratively arrived at something that was exceptionally good on- and off-road. We came up with this sibling set of vehicles with a truck and an SUV. It's the same car, but they have two different flavors—one obviously has a bed and the other has another row of seats. [The R1T and the R1S are] the halos to launch the brand and to launch the company, under which we'll build a portfolio of other different shapes, form factors, prices. But these act as the brand ambassadors.
"These products are really our handshake with the world as a brand. To go on this kind of a drive [across the TAT] you'd normally have the use of the least efficient vehicles on the road. It's this really uncomfortable juxtaposition of going out to enjoy the outdoors, but in things that are simultaneously making those very same environments less likely to be around for generations to come.
"That was part of the initial inspiration to say, 'How can we create something that allows you to go out on these adventures?' Whether it's a drive like this, or a drive to the beach, or on a twisty mountain road, do it in a way where you can enjoy it but not make that environment worse. And where it gets really interesting is being really sharp and focused around what the product needs to be.
"So the thousands and thousands of decisions we made in developing the products were around making this type of lifestyle, this type of experience, really easy to access. When you think about high-performance vehicles, you're not able to use them on public roads in the sense that you can't really fully exercise their capabilities. Whereas with a vehicle like this … we just pulled off the highway and here we are able to use it in an environment it was designed for. So it all of a sudden makes these environments easier for people to flex the ability of the vehicle and also get out and do things they probably aren't able to do in a normal car. "
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