Kemp, Rivian double down on $5B Georgia factory despite challenges

Legal battles and supply chain issues won’t deter Rivian from coming to Georgia, officials say
(Left to right) Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe, Gov. Brian Kemp and Marty Kemp take a selfie following a press conference celebrating the first ever Rivian Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, March 1,  2023. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
(Left to right) Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe, Gov. Brian Kemp and Marty Kemp take a selfie following a press conference celebrating the first ever Rivian Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The chief executive of electric vehicle startup Rivian took to the State Capitol on Wednesday, working to forge friendships under the Gold Dome, and reinforced the company’s long-term commitment to Georgia and its future $5 billion factory.

A celebratory “Rivian Day” with state leaders was a show of unity that came at a tumultuous time for the company, which said on Tuesday it lost $6.8 billion in 2022 as it struggled with supply chain problems that dogged the vehicle manufacturer last year.

To make up lost ground, the company said it expects to manufacture roughly 50,000 vehicles this year at its existing factory in Illinois, more than doubling its 2022 output. Rivian told shareholders it will narrow its losses this year as the production issues that have plagued the manufacturer become easier to handle.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe said his company’s future profitability is staked on its planned Georgia factory, which will manufacture a new crossover targeting mass markets.

“We’re committed to this state and this project,” he said. “The future of our company in terms of scaling and growing really relies on the future of this project. There’s not another option. We’re not planning an alternative. This must work.”

The state is embroiled in a legal battle over property tax incentives that were offered to Rivian in exchange for the future EV plant in southern Morgan and Walton counties, which is promised to employ 7,500 Georgians. A legal challenge from residents near the proposed factory prompted a local judge to strike down some $700 million in tax cuts, which are currently in the hands of an appellate court panel.

If the lawsuit isn’t concluded in the state’s favor by May, Rivian has the ability to terminate its agreement with the state, according to the company’s economic development agreement. Gov. Brian Kemp told the AJC he expects to prevail in court.

“We’re very confident in our legal position,” he said.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

The Rivian Day event mirrored a recent celebration of Kia in January, both of which highlight Georgia’s emergence as a nationwide leader in EV manufacturing. Kia’s parent company, Hyundai Motor Group, is building a $5.54 billion EV factory near Savannah and is partnering with SK Innovation to build a multibillion-dollar EV battery factory in Bartow County. A Development of Regional Impact application was submitted for regulatory review Tuesday.

The state House also approved a bill Wednesday that could expand electric vehicle charging across the state, aiming to bolster the state’s EV infrastructure.

Scaringe’s trip to Georgia was also designed to rebuild ties with state lawmakers after the electric vehicle company became an unexpected lightning rod in the 2022 election.

In his failed GOP primary challenge against Kemp, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and other far-right Republicans tried to tap into the frustration of residents of the rural area 45 miles east of Atlanta where opponents have gone to court to stop the development.

“There’s local opposition there, but the vast majority of people are excited about the plant,” said Kemp, who added that the high-paying jobs will allow residents and their children to stay near their hometown to “work for a cool advanced manufacturing company in their state.”

“Some folks, it wouldn’t matter what company it is. They just don’t want it in their backyard,” Kemp told the AJC. “But this isn’t a site we just found. It’s been there for 10 years, and the local community and the political leaders supported it. If it wasn’t, we never would have done this.”

Though Kemp demolished Perdue in the May primary, Perdue’s promise to kill one of the largest economic development projects in state history served as a wakeup call to Rivian executives to foster better relations with local officials and state politicians.

“Even the strongest detractor, we hope to make a fan,” Scaringe said at the event. “That takes time, it takes repetition and it takes us continuing to execute on the things we say are important to us.”

Even so, there remain signs of strain. Budget-writers in the House and Senate did not include a $56 million appropriation that Kemp requested for a Rivian worker training center in its mid-year budget, saying it’s not needed until next year.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

And many lawmakers remain concerned about the $1.5 billion package of subsidies, tax incentives and infrastructure improvements that state and local leaders offered Rivian to build a vehicle and battery plant.

The biggest portion of that deal is the local property tax break that a local judge rejected that’s now before the state Court of Appeals. Kemp’s office has said the package is tied to Rivian fulfilling key metrics and his aides say they’re confident the automaker will meet them.

Though the incentives remain in legal limbo, grading at the East Atlanta Megasite has been underway for months.

“We’re moving dirt,” Scaringe said. “A lot of the work that needs to go into the site prep is already underway. It’s emblematic of the confidence that exists.”

Rivian’s stock plummeted following the company’s fourth quarter earnings call with investors, closing Wednesday at a new low — below $16 a share. When the company first went public in 2021, the stock peaked at nearly $130 per share. Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, owns about a 4% stake in Rivian and holds a board seat.

Rivian drew criticism from analysts this week by refusing to disclose the number of preordered Rivian vehicles on backlog. Rivian had said Nov. 7 that it had 114,000 vehicles on order in addition to 100,000 vans it is providing Amazon.