Executive Turnover at Rivian

Sean McLain and Nora Eckert, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

The departures, confirmed by a Rivian spokeswoman, are the latest developments in what has been a challenging period for Rivian, which has been rolling out its first all-electric models but last year missed a critical milestone of manufacturing 25,000 vehicles. The company said it was off its goal by about 700 vehicles in part because of difficulty getting parts.

Rivian’s stock has also tumbled since its blockbuster initial public offering in November 2021, down roughly 79% through Tuesday’s close.

Rivian’s stock price is what it is — but a miss of 700 vehicles from a goal of 25,000 seems pretty good to me. That’s about 97 percent. But for context, Tesla made a record 1.3 million vehicles last year. Rivian obviously has a long way to go to reach a mainstream level of vehicle production.

The executives who have left were some of Rivian’s longer-tenured employees. Among them is Randy Frank, vice president of body and interior engineering, and Steve Gawronski, the vice president in charge of parts purchasing. Both had departed around the beginning of this year. Mr. Frank joined Rivian in 2019 from Ford Motor Co. Mr. Gawronski joined in 2018 from the autonomous vehicle startup Zoox.

When executives who’ve only been at the company for 3 or 4 years are among the “longer-tenured”, I think it’s more a sign of how dynamic the entire electric vehicle industry is at the moment, rather than a mark against Rivian in particular. There’s a lot of turnover (and effectively, musical chairs, as they tend to go from one company to another) at Tesla and Apple’s secretive Project Titan, too. After leading development of Tesla’s Model 3, Doug Field went to Apple, but then left Apple for that plucky startup Ford. But then Apple hired an executive who’d spent 31 years at Ford. It’s a huge market that’s being disrupted from multiple angles.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023