Rivian shuts down all facilities over COVID-19 pandemic concerns
Rivian employs more than 2,000 workers across several locations, including its headquarters in Plymouth, Mich., a factory in Normal, Ill. as well as operations in San Jose and Irvine, Calif., where engineers are working on autonomous vehicle technology. Rivian also has an office in the U.K.
The company said Friday that salaried and hourly employees will continue to be paid during the shutdown. Rivian told TechCrunch that most of its facilities have been at 2 to 5% occupancy for about a week. The length of the shutdown is undetermined at this time, a company spokesperson said.
Rivian spent the majority of its life in the shadows until November 2018, when it revealed its all-electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show. Since then, the electric automaker has picked up investors and commercial customers such as Ford and Amazon, in addition to the reservations consumers have made for its pickup and SUV.
In December, Rivian announced it had raised $1.3 billion in new funding, the fourth round of capital announced by the company in 2019 alone. It followed prior announcements of $700 million led by Amazon, $500 million from Ford (which includes a collaboration on electric vehicle technology) and $350 million from Cox Automotive.
Lincoln, the luxury brand under Ford, is working with Rivian to develop an “all-new” electric vehicle. Amazon has ordered 100,000 all-electric delivery vans from Rivian, with the first deliveries expected to begin in 2021.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has prompted automakers to temporarily suspend operations in Europe and the U.S., where the disease has started to spread. In China, where the disease first started, factories are coming back online.
Automakers have had varied responses to the pandemic; some took action to suspend production faster than others. Honda kicked off closures in the U.S. Ford, GM and FCA followed after the Big 3 formed a task force with the United Auto Workers. Even as these automakers began implementing new safety precautions in its factories based on recommendations that came out of the task force, the UAW continued to pressure them to close. A couple of cases of employees testing positive for COVID-19 accelerated the closures. Nissan and Volkswagen have also paused operations in the U.S.
Tesla has been a notable holdout. The company announced Thursday it would shut down its Fremont, Calif. factory, beginning March 23. The decision to suspend production there came days after Alameda County officials issued an order to close all nonessential businesses. Tesla kept its doors open anyway, even after officials publicly said that it was not an essential business.
Tesla has suspended operations at its New York factory as well. Tesla’s gigafactory near Reno, Nev., which produces electric motors and battery packs, is fully operational.
Tesla told employees in an email sent March 18, and viewed by TechCrunch, that it was staying open because it has had “conflicting guidance from different levels of government” over whether it could operate. The human resources department told employees in the email to come to work if their job is to produce, service, deliver or test its electric vehicles.
But by Thursday, and after meetings with county officials, the company announced it would suspend production. Some basic operations that will support Tesla’s charging infrastructure and what it describes as its “vehicle and energy services operations” will continue at the factory, which under normal circumstances has more than 10,000 people working there.