Rivian, a promising and well-funded electric-truck maker, plans to sell shares through an initial public offering, the company said Friday, just weeks before it expects to deliver its first electric pickups to customers.
The company, which has raised more than $10 billion from investors that include Amazon and Ford Motor, is building an electric pickup and SUV at a former Mitsubishi plant in Illinois. Its founder, R.J. Scaringe, told customers last month that he expected the truck to ship in September and the SUV to follow soon after. The company also is developing delivery vans for Amazon.
Rivian is aiming to list its shares at a valuation of roughly $70 billion, a person familiar with the matter said. That would be higher than the market capitalization of Ford, making the company one of the most valuable automakers in the world. A Rivian representative declined to comment on the valuation it is seeking and declined to provide more details about its offering.
Wall Street investors have tended to think highly of electric-vehicle companies in the past couple of years, largely because of the success of Tesla, the dominant maker of electric cars. Tesla is the world’s most valuable automaker by far, with a market capitalization of about $700 billion. Lucid Motors, which makes luxury electric cars and recently joined Nasdaq through a merger, has a $34 billion valuation. That is roughly half of what the market thinks General Motors is worth, even though Lucid has not yet delivered any cars to customers.
Auto analysts consider Rivian one of the most viable electric-vehicle startups in what is expected to be a very competitive market. In addition to Tesla, large automakers such as GM, Volkswagen and Ford plan to introduce dozens of electric cars and trucks in the coming years.
“It’s an EV juggernaut — it has the pedigree with Amazon, Ford and a who’s who of backers,” said Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “Investors have been waiting for the day where a Rivian would go public.”
If the company’s electric pickup does roll out in September, it will beat the electric GMC Hummer pickup from GM, expected by the end of the year, and Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning. The gas-powered F-150 has long been America’s bestselling vehicle, and the electric version could become an instant force in the electric market when it debuts, most likely in the spring.
Rivian also is planning to expand a network of charging sites and service centers, said Scaringe, an engineer who has a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the July email to customers.
The company may be entering a crowded field, but it has a different approach from that of Tesla, the pioneer that most people think of when they think of electric cars. Tesla found great success in selling sporty sedans, but it has yet to place a heavy focus on pickups and vehicles capable of going off the road — lucrative segments of the auto industry. Rivian has focused on producing “adventure” vehicles that it says are made for trails and dirt roads.
“Rivian is one of the best-positioned electric vehicle startups,” Asad Hussain, senior mobility analyst for PitchBook, said by email. “The company’s focus on the relatively untapped premium electric-truck market should allow it to gain rapid market adoption.”
The leaders of Rivian and Tesla are also starkly different. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has been a brash and combative force in the automotive industry, making big promises and engaging in public feuds with individuals and government agencies. Scaringe is understated and has been measured in his public statements and promises.
This year, a state judge in California allowed Tesla to proceed with a lawsuit in which it contends that Rivian stole intellectual property by hiring away employees. Rivian has said the lawsuit has no merit and is intended to hurt a fast-growing competitor.
Although Rivian has existed in some form since 2009, it faced frequent skepticism through much of the past decade over a product that seemed distant and speculative, Scaringe said in an interview in June.
“In the very beginning, on Day 1, Year 1, the risk of starting a business like this is enormously high, and the likelihood of success was very low,” he said. “That’s just true. And I had to accept that.”
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