Rivian: ‘We are not abandoning Georgia’

Rivian employee Russ Mooney looks over the new R2 prototype, which the company says will eventually be made in Georgia, at the Ponce City Market in Atlanta on April 27, 2024. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

Rivian employee Russ Mooney looks over the new R2 prototype, which the company says will eventually be made in Georgia, at the Ponce City Market in Atlanta on April 27, 2024. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Executives for electric vehicle maker Rivian said Saturday the company remains committed to building a massive manufacturing plant 60 miles east of Atlanta despite a recent pause on construction.

The company recently pivoted its plans and is ramping up production of its new R2 SUV at its plant in Normal, Illinois. This caused some state politicians to worry that California-based Rivian would abandon its plans to build the sprawling factory site along I-20.

That’s not going to happen, Tony Sanger, vice president of facilities, said.

“By pivoting to Normal, we created some concern in the market and certainly with the legislators as to that we were abandoning Georgia,” said Sanger, who has moved to Madison to live near the plant site. “And that’s not the case. The news here is we are not abandoning Georgia. We will be back. We will be building because that’s where we get the volume we need for these vehicles.”

Sanger sought to allay any concerns as Rivian showed off prototypes of three new EV models at its Ponce City Market showroom. The R2 SUV, with an expected starting price of $45,000, should hit the market in the first half of 2026. There is no timetable yet for the company’s smaller SUVs — the R3 and R3x — but the company plans to eventually be producing all three of the SUVs at the Georgia factory, Sanger said.

But first, Rivian needs to produce the R2 at its existing factory in Illinois, he said.

“We just needed to get these vehicles, which have had such a positive response in the market, into the hands of consumers faster,” Sanger said. “The easiest way for us to do that and the most economical way for us to do that was to add capacity to the facility in Normal. ... Once we’ve done that and have ramped that facility, we’ll pivot back and build the facility here in Georgia.”

Rivian made waves in 2021 when it announced its planned $5 billion EV factory near Rutledge, what was at that time the biggest economic development project by jobs and investment in state history. The initial opening date had been scheduled for this year, but the timeline slipped.

In March, the company said it would put on hold vertical construction of the factory and instead shift production of the smaller R2 crossover it had planned to launch in Georgia to its existing factory in Illinois. The move should cut more than $2.2 billion in costs, the company has said.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe has said Georgia remains important to the company’s expansion plans and that the EV maker would move forward with the factory along I-20 near Rutledge to help scale production of the R2, which is expected to be a volume seller for the company.

On Saturday, Rivian officials at Ponce City Market showed off the two-row R2 crossover and compact R3 and R3X models that the company debuted at a March launch event in Laguna Beach, Calif.

“Since the launch, we’ve seen an overwhelming amount of excitement for the vehicles, particularly the R2,” said Tony Caravano, Rivian’s senior director of customer engagement. “That’s the reason we’re here today, showcasing them and allowing folks to get up close and personal with them and with our team. We’ve seen thousands of orders already with the R2.”

Jose Castillo sits in the new Rivian R2 prototype and records his experience at the Ponce City Market in Atlanta on April 27, 2024.  (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

icon to expand image

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Customers will be able to pre-order the R3 and R3x at a future date that has yet to be determined, Caravano said.

Since it put the Georgia project on hold, the state has pushed the EV maker to divulge how it will comply with terms of its land lease and incentive agreement amid the stoppage. These issues include site security, stabilizing graded land with vegetation and stormwater management.

Runoff from the graded site has been a persistent source of frustration from neighbors of the property along I-20 in southern Walton and Morgan counties. In the wake of the pause, a number of Georgia lawmakers have sought to punish the company, though Gov. Brian Kemp has said Georgia will honor its commitments to the state’s second-largest economic development project, and he expects Rivian to honor its promises.

On Saturday, Sanger said the automaker will meet its obligations in Georgia to have 7,500 workers at the Rutledge site by 2030. “Our internal timing says that’s not a problem and we’ll hit those deadlines.”

As for the site itself, he said, it is not dormant.

“We actually have people out there that are currently working on that site doing grading and those kind of operations to keep that site moving so that when we do pivot back, we’re able to go vertical much faster,” Sanger said.

Rivian has yet to turn a profit, though company officials have said they believe Rivian will be in the black for the first time before the end of the year.

The EV sector has grappled with softening demand in recent quarters and a number of major players, including Rivian and rival Tesla, have cut jobs and made other strategic shifts to weather the storm.

State and local leaders provided Rivian with an incentive package of land, tax breaks, credits and other inducements valued at $1.5 billion in exchange for the company building the factory and hiring 7,500 workers. Most of the incentives, however, only accrue to Rivian if it meets its obligations.

Rivian’s economic development agreement requires the company to collectively meet 80% of its promised jobs and investment by the end of 2030 and maintain those metrics through 2049. Otherwise, they’d be subject to claw back measures.

Cox Enterprises, which owns the AJC, also owns about a 3% stake in Rivian.