Hybrids & Electrics

Will Rivian and Tesla Be the Next Great Auto Rivalry?

There have been many great rivalries in the history of automobiles. There’s been Ferrari versus Lamborghini, Ford Mustang versus Chevrolet Camaro, and Ford F-150 versus any other pickup truck. Now with the race to develop all-electric vehicles, will we see a rivalry between Rivian and Tesla?

The electric vehicle titans: Tesla and Rivian

Tesla, owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has been a driving force for electric vehicles in the auto industry. You can see Tesla’s influence across many other automakers’ new offerings at major car shows.

Now, auto executives around the country are adding assembly lines for plug-in models and announcing all-electric vehicles. The industry has grown more serious about developing EVs with the need for emissions compliance in China, Europe, and the U.S.

It was Tesla’s early success with the Model 3 that revealed a demand for all-electric vehicles. The growth in Model 3 sales has convinced analysts that there’s a market for EVs even at a higher price. On average, the Model 3 sells for $50,000. 

Other auto execs study Tesla, like Cadillac President Steve Carlisle, who explained to CNBC that Tesla has done a lot to both put electric vehicles in the minds of the consumers but popularize them as well.

Rivian isn’t as well-known as Tesla yet. Many would be surprised to learn they have more than 100,000 vehicle orders and $1.5 billion in investments from heavier hitters like Ford, Cox Automotive, and Amazon. Rivian sure knows how to make an entrance.

The automaker is one of many EV startups trying to build an EV version of every type of vehicle. They’re not only competing for capital but in the race to develop products for the EV market that people will love.

Rivian has gotten lucky when it comes to capital; they’re set to launch an R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV next year. Like Tesla, Rivian doesn’t have a nationwide dealer network so orders will go directly to the factory. Since they are financially stable at the moment, they’re confident they can raise the money they need.

Rivalries and innovation

Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk speaks in front of the newly unveiled all-electric battery-powered Tesla's Cybertruck
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks in front of the newly unveiled Cybertruck | FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Competing companies drive innovation because they’re fighting to see who can bring the latest improved and new products to the market first. Such rivalries go back several decades.

The ’60s gave us the battle between Lamborghini and Ferrari. The end result was the production sports cars, both an over-the-top powerhouse and a study in elegant performance. Both set the pace for the sports cars that followed.

The epic battle between the turbocharged Toyota Supra and Dodge Charger began with the film franchise The Fast and the Furious. The race between the two cars at the end of the first film illustrated the battle between domestic versus imported cars that’s gone on since a four-cylinder allegedly defeated a V8. It also brought back the muscle-car candy colors and stanced-out econoboxes.

Those are just a couple examples of the benefits to the industry that was spurred by a rivalry between brands, cars, and auto executives that result in new features, great innovations, and great old features made new.

In the case of Tesla and Rivian, the race is on to produce the first electric pickup truck. While there are several other players in the race to release an EV pickup, Tesla and Rivian are the only two with official specs at this time.

Tesla’s Cybertruck and Rivian’s R1T

On November 21, Tesla unveiled its new Cybertruck, which looks like something out of Blade Runner with it’s odd, angular shape and futuristic look. The truck is tough, but not “fake tough,” according to Musk. It’s dent-proof, scratch-proof, and supposedly bullet-proof.

As Musk promised, Tesla’s Cybertruck beats Ford’s F-150 on all specs including price and fuel efficiency, which could be major draws for many people, right? Did Tesla get the jump on Rivian, who plans to release its EV truck in Fall 2020? Maybe not.

According to Forbes, Wall Street was not wowed by the new truck with its radical design. They’re reporting that Tesla’s share price actually dropped 6% since the market closed on November 22. Opinions on how the truck will fare with the general public are largely divided.

But, now that Tesla’s EV pickup truck has been unveiled with a design and features we haven’t seen before, their competition will race to match and exceed their achievement. Other automakers working on EV pickup trucks will take notes and determine if they can incorporate such advances and maybe even expand upon them.

It will certainly have Rivian taking a close look with time to make changes before they debut their vehicle. At the moment, from the known specs, Tesla is offering a better starting price, 100 more miles of range, a larger bed, 3,000 pounds more of towing capacity, and better acceleration. 

The strange shape of the Cybertruck is certain to be a turn-off for some. The higher price might be a turn-off for those considering Rivian. But don’t forget that Ford is investing in Rivian. Until they officially unveil the R1T, anything could change.

Tesla’s Cybertruck may end up being a game-changer and their ideas will influence the others moving to produce all-electric vehicles. Their competitors, including Rivian, will scramble to match those innovations and try to exceed them.

Who will win? Only time will tell.