How EV Maker Rivian Quietly Took Over an Abandoned Small-Town Factory and Then Took On Tesla

Before Rivian arrived, the small town of Normal, Illinois, was known for Illinois State University and sprawling cornfields. There was also a huge Mitsubishi manufacturing plant that had opened in 1988, providing much of the town’s employment. After the facility shuttered in 2015 and was slated for demolition, town leaders would have nothing but a massive, useless, unfarmable concrete slab. Then the little-known EV maker Rivian came to town

Rivian takes root in Normal, Illinois

The Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois
The Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois | Rivian

The folks at Rivian liked what they saw when they toured the Mitsubishi factory in Normal and bought it only a few months before the demolition date, according to CNN. The electric vehicle maker began operations in 2017 and has been on a high-flying trajectory ever since, breathing new life into the Illinois town.

Rivian has added nearly a million square feet to the already 2.6-million-square-foot facility. The automaker employs 940 people full-time and hopes to add at least 2,500 manufacturing jobs this year alone. Currently, the company is cranking out the Rivian R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV, with big plans for the future. 

Rivian is taking the EV market by storm

Since the Normal plant opened, Rivian’s growth has been phenomenal. A deal with Amazon to make 100,000 fully electric delivery vans got the ball rolling in a big way in 2019. The EV maker plans to produce 40,000 electric vehicles in 2022. They include the sleek all-electric truck the Rivian R1T, with an EPA-estimated range of 314 miles. The R1S is an SUV boasting modern good looks and an estimated range of 316 miles. 

Rivian’s plans for expansion don’t stop in Normal. The company intends to construct a $5 billion plant in Georgia to build 400,000 EVs every year. It will bring 7,500 new manufacturing jobs to the area. The money for the project comes from the automaker’s $13.5 billion IPO this past November. 

The massive public offering was the result of strong support on Wall Street for Rivian. The brand is valued at even more than Ford Motor Company, which comes in at $77.4 billion. Rivian’s raising more capital than any other company in the United States since 2014 speaks to the excitement about EVs in general and EV startups specifically. 

The ‘Truck of the Year’ beats out Tesla

Rivian recently won MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year, a prestigious honor. Calling the vehicle “remarkable,” MotorTrend reviewers had nothing but praise for the all-electric pickup. The award is an impressive feat for a brand-new electric vehicle, a pickup truck from a startup company. The 2022 R1T beat established models like GM’s Hummer EV Pickup, the Ford Maverick, and the Hyundai Santa Cruz.

The 2022 Tesla Cybertruck wasn’t even a contender for Truck of the Year. This could be because the Cybertruck looks like something the Terminator might drive in a sci-fi movie, while the R1T looks like a sleek, modern vehicle in the traditional pickup form.

In addition, the Tesla Cybertruck isn’t even out yet, although buyers have plunked down over a million deposits to get their hands on the EV. It promises to run on an all-electric quad-motor system similar to the R1T’s, and Tesla claims it will boast 14,000 pounds of towing capacity and up to 500 miles of range. How it will compete with the Rivian R1T on the open market remains to be seen. 

RELATED: Rivian Reports Plans to Spend $5 Billion for a Second U.S. Assembly Plant