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Electric Auto Maker Rivian Charges Up Irvine Presence

Friday, May 15, 2020

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(Orange County Business Journal)

Electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC plans to significantly boost its Irvine operations, with a pair of new leases totaling more than 250,000 square feet in the area, the Orange County Business Journal has learned.

The Michigan-based firm—which has raised more than $3 billion in funding since its 2009 founding, with financial backers including Ford, Amazon, T. Rowe Price, and Cox Automotive—is expected to consolidate and expand its Southern California base at a pair of sites in the city, as it gets closer to releasing its first all-electric pickup truck and SUV for sale.

Its main Irvine site now runs some 20,000 square feet in the Spectrum area of the city, although it has other facilities in the region.

Sites in Irvine, Carson, and Los Angeles currently house Rivian’s integration engineers, battery team, power inverter team, customer experience, concept design, facilities, logistics and other departments, according to the company.

“The technology that moves our vehicles, and the experiences that move our customers, are developed here,” the company said.

Expect some executive offices at the new operations hub; Rivian founder and Chief Executive RJ Scaringe lives in the Irvine area, according to a recent profile in Forbes.

In an email to the Business Journal, Rivian said it “is excited to consolidate some locations and adjust for growth with our new leases,” though it declined to offer further specifics.

Near Kia Ops

Rivian’s website teases a “new 190,000-square-foot office” on the way in Orange County, which it says is currently under construction and set to open this year. A specific address for the facility hasn’t been disclosed by the company.

The building appears to be Irvine’s 14600 Myford Road, a roughly 186,000-square-foot building about a mile from the Market Place shopping center, and the Irvine headquarters of Kia Automotive, OC’s No. 4 automaker by employee count with some 350 workers here.

Rivian was estimated to employ about 100 people in OC as of last year. It currently lists close to 100 additional positions in Irvine on its website for IT, engineering and other positions.

Meggitt Sublease

The Myford Road facility was recently put up for sublease; it was occupied by Endevco Corp., which had used the manufacturing and office building as its headquarters since 2012.

Endevco manufactures vibration-measurement instruments that are used in automotive, aircraft and general lab testing. The company, formerly a unit of Britain’s Meggitt PLC, was sold last year to North Carolina-based PCB Piezotronics, a maker of high-precision sensors.

At the time of the sale, PCB announced it would relocate Endevco’s manufacturing facilities from Irvine and China to a facility in North Carolia by end of the year.

The building is owned by Irvine Co.; construction was underway at the site late last month, with a portion of the facility still occupied by Meggitt, according to signs at the property.

Billabong Site

Rivian is also said to have struck a sizeable industrial lease for a portion of 117-119 Waterworks Way, an approximately 143,400-square-foot building in the Spectrum submarket.

Rivian is taking close to 64,000 square feet of space at that facility, sources tell the Business Journal.

The Irvine site was previously entirely leased to Billabong and used for its local manufacturing base, but the retrenching retailer has consolidated a portion of those operations to Huntington Beach.

The Waterworks facility also is owned by Irvine Co.; the Newport Beach-based landlord declined to comment on the two transactions.

$3B in Funding

Rivian was slated to begin rolling out the first of its electronic truck and sport utility vehicles to customers late this year, but implications of the coronavirus pandemic caused the company to temporarily shutter all of its facilities, and delay its launch schedule.

In an April market update, the company said its team has transitioned to working at home and “we expect some level of delay,” but is “working to minimize the disruption to our launch schedule.”

The company’s inaugural EV products, the R1T truck and R1S SUVs, are being touted as offering up to 400 miles of range and providing “an unmatched combination of performance, off-road capability, and utility,” it says.

Recent reports put the expected cost of the R1T in the $70,000 range.

Rivian’s last reported funding deal was December, when it brought in $1.3 billion in funding led by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., a prominent investor in Tesla.

Ford also participated in that funding, and has invested some $600 million in the company, according to reports.

Late last month, Ford and its luxury segment Lincoln Motor Co. shelved plans to build a new vehicle using Rivian’s “skateboard” chassis, a decision that appears to be born out of the impact of the coronavirus.

Karma Comparison

It’s not just OC that represents a growing base for Rivian; the company is currently building a new plant at the former Mitsubishi Motors North America factory in Normal, Ill.

The 2.6 million-square-foot site is expected to produce 50,000 electric vehicles a year and employ up to 1,000 people. The company has been tapped by Amazon to build 100,000 electric delivery vans over the coming years.

Rivian paid $16 million for the Illinois site, and is investing north of $750 million in project costs, according to reports.

A local footprint in the 250,000-square-foot range for Rivian would be nearly the same as Irvine’s Karma Automotive LLC, whose headquarters in the Spectrum area of the city run 262,000 square feet.

Karma, the maker of the Revero luxury hybrid vehicle, has been changing its corporate strategy over the course of the past year, with layoffs reported at both Irvine and its Moreno Valley production plant. Karma was reported to employ about 800 people locally as of a year ago, the most of any area automaker, prior to those cuts.

Category: Economic Development

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