Rivian opens showroom, confirms 2024 Georgia factory groundbreaking

Company’s new ‘space’ at Ponce City Market will open to the public on Friday
Rivian employees meet in the company’s new showroom at Ponce City Market in Atlanta on Thursday, October 19, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Rivian employees meet in the company’s new showroom at Ponce City Market in Atlanta on Thursday, October 19, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

As Rivian prepares to open a new retail and customer service space in the heart of Atlanta to showcase its vehicles and brand, the electric vehicle maker confirmed that it plans to break ground on its new Georgia factory early next year.

Speaking inside the company’s new location at Ponce City Market — which will open to the public on Friday— Rivian spokespeople said grading on the site of its future factory near Rutledge, about an hour east of Atlanta, will be complete by the end of the year. The $5 billion factory will produce the company’s forthcoming R2 crossover when it begins production in 2026 and is expected to eventually employ 7,500 workers.

Legal battles over property tax breaks state and local officials granted the company to bring them to Georgia have slowed construction, but Rivian officials expressed optimism Thursday about the project’s trajectory.

“We feel like it’s been full-steam ahead, and we’ve been absolutely thrilled with the partnership and the progress,” said Denise Cherry, Rivian’s senior director for design and retail development.

Initially, Rivian’s Georgia factory will be able to manufacture 200,000 vehicles a year, and the company shared new renderings of what Phase 1 will look like. Phase 2 will expand capacity to build 200,000 more units each year — or 400,000 units annually.

Rivian currently makes its flagship R1S SUV, R1T pickup truck and electric delivery vans at its existing factory in Normal, Illinois. But the company hopes the smaller, cheaper R2 — which will be produced exclusively at the factory in Morgan and Walton counties — will appeal to the masses and has said it is critical to its future growth plans.

A Rivian employee gives a demo drive of a Rivian R1S SUV from the company’s new showroom at Ponce City Market in Atlanta on Thursday, October 19, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Before R2s begin rolling off assembly lines in Georgia, the company’s new real estate at Ponce City Market seeks to introduce more people to the Rivian brand.

The company’s new Atlanta “space,” as it’s called in Rivian parlance, is its eighth such location in the U.S.

Part showroom, brand exhibit and education center, the clean, industrial space feels more like an EV version of an Apple Store, infused with the company’s unique blend of high-tech, yet outdoorsy aesthetics.

The focus is not on sales. Purchases and reservations can be made from your mobile phone or computer, though Georgia law does not allow Rivian to bypass independent dealerships and sell at stores directly to consumers. In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law allowing direct-to-consumer sales of Teslas. Rivian pushed Georgia legislators to pass a similar carve-out last session, but the effort fizzled and the bill’s fate is unclear.

Instead, the company said the purpose of the space is to show prospective customers what it will look and feel like to own a Rivian.

Visitors can sit in one of the EVs parked inside or book a test drive. Many of the abundant outdoor accessories it offers — from gear kits and cables to rechargeable flashlights and water bottles — are on display too. Even Rivian-branded shirts and coffee mugs stamped “Keep Atlanta adventurous forever” are available for purchase.

For a company that conducts nearly all of its commerce online, Cherry said there is still value in having a physical space for customers to get a feel for Rivian products.

“It allows you to experience our brand, our mission, our products, in a really tangible way,” Cherry said.

Though automakers are moving rapidly to electrify most of their new models, research has shown there is still angst among some buyers about EVs, with battery range and cost among the top concerns. The company said it also hopes its Ponce City Market space will serve to ease concerns that drivers have about the technology, showing would-be buyers adventure destinations Rivian EVs can reach from Atlanta and the locations of its regional charging network.

“Once you understand the product, charging and all of these other things that seem complicated, the resistance drops significantly,” Cherry said.

Cox Enterprises, the parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, owns about a 4% stake in Rivian.

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