The start-up Rivian Automotive has secured a $200 million loan to begin producing electric vehicles at a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill., by 2020.
Company founder and CEO RJ Scaringe called the debt financing from Standard Chartered Bank an “important milestone” as Rivian seeks to gear up for its initial models — a fully electric five-passenger pickup truck and seven-passenger SUV. The Michigan-based company has yet to unveil a single vehicle design.
“Our launch vehicles have completed substantial development and are undergoing rigorous testing,” Scaringe said in a news release. “The additional capital will enable us to ramp up towards production and bring our innovative products to the market in 2020.”
Rivian has raised $450 million in financing to date, the company said, with other investors including the Saudi company Abdul Latif Jameel and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas.
In addition to $4 million in local incentives, Rivian is set to receive $49.2 million in state tax credits over 15 years if it meets employment and investment targets for the Normal facility. Those goals include creating 1,000 jobs by 2024.
To qualify, Rivian must have 35 new employees in Normal by December, 465 employees by 2021, and 1,000 new employees by 2024. The automaker also must hit undisclosed capital investment targets, “all of which must be met to gain the annual tax incentive,” said Jacquelyn Reineke, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Founded in 2009, Rivian employs about 350 people at its Michigan headquarters, California technology and engineering operations, and the 2.6 million-square-foot former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, which the company bought for $16 million in cash from a liquidation firm in January 2017. About 50 employees are based in Normal, the company said Thursday.
Mitsubishi ended production at the plant in 2015 after years of dwindling sales.
Lured by $249 million in state and local incentives, Mitsubishi opened the Normal plant in 1988 as a joint venture with Chrysler, producing sport coupes and later, sedans. Mitsubishi bought out Chrysler’s stake in the joint venture in 1991 but continued to supply the Detroit automaker with its cars through 2005.
In its heyday, the Normal plant produced more than 200,000 vehicles per year, while staffing levels reached about 4,000.
By the time Mitsubishi decided to close the plant in July 2015, annual production had fallen to 64,000 vehicles, while the workforce was down to 1,280 full-time employees.
Reviving the Mitsubishi plant is part of an ambitious, if still somewhat shrouded, business plan for Rivian, which has assembled a leadership team of automotive and technology executives headed by the entrepreneurial Scaringe, 35, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009.
The company is joining an increasingly crowded field of electric and autonomous automakers that includes everyone from Tesla and Google to General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler.
The future for Rivian begins with an electric pickup and SUV, which are reportedly going to be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show in December. The company would not confirm that but offered some details as to what consumers can expect from the new vehicles, including self-driving features that will evolve as the technology moves forward.
“Rivian’s vehicles will be suitable for all of life’s adventures while enabling consumers to experience mobility in a whole new way,” said Jiten Behl, Rivian’s chief strategy officer. “Our vehicles will come with autonomous capabilities at launch which will continually advance over time.”