Rivian plans a nationwide service network that will also offer mobile service

Rivian plans to have a fully operational service network ready before most customers take delivery of their battery-electric R1T pickups and R1S SUVs, CEO RJ Scaringe told Automotive News.

Customers will have two options for repairs that cannot be carried out by over-the-air software updates: They can visit a brick-and-mortar service center or schedule mobile service to fix vehicles at their homes and businesses.

In a wide-ranging interview with Automotive News Publisher Jason Stein on Tuesday’s Daily Drive podcast, Scaringe for the first time addressed how Rivian will offer service for its vehicles without a traditional dealership network.

“We’re launching a large number of service centers throughout the U.S., really in the next nine months, 41 service centers. In addition to those service centers, we’re building a very robust network of mobile service [providers] that will come to you, your business or your home,” Scaringe said.

Because electric vehicles have only a small fraction of the moving parts used in vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel engines, maintenance requirements for EVs usually consist of little more than wheel alignments, tire rotations and replacement of regular wear parts, such as burned-out lightbulbs and worn-out wiper blades.

“What we deeply believe is that a significant majority of service operations necessary on a vehicle can be done remotely, can be done with our mobile service network, which from a customer’s point of view simplifies things dramatically. They no longer have to think about dropping their vehicles off. Service just happens, when customers are at their house or at their office,” Scaringe said. “We have not talked about it, but there is a massive amount of building that is happening behind the scenes within Rivian to set up the teams, infrastructure and the digital platforms, and of course all the physical assets to make that happen.”

The company also will service Amazon’s electric delivery vans alongside the R1T and R1S. Amazon has ordered 100,000 electric vans from the startup automaker.

Said Scaringe: “The Amazon program actually provides a really very useful and critical service-demand pool. One of the challenges of launching a service network for a company that doesn’t have a fleet or a car park just yet is that on day one of year one, you need to have service supply, but you don’t yet really have service demand. There are no vehicles on the road yet, or there are not that many. Or, the vehicles don’t have issues on day one — at least they shouldn’t.

“What’s important from a service-network point of view is that you need that capacity on the supply side, but making sure you balance that with the demand side. So, of course, ramping up vehicle production quickly and getting a lot of vehicles in the hands of consumers is helpful with that. But the Amazon program will ramp that up very quickly, and the service infrastructure — both mobile and physical — supports not only the Rivian vehicles but also the Amazon fleet.”

Rivian is on track, Scaringe said, to start retail sales of its truck and SUV in the second quarter of 2021. The plant in Normal, Ill., is building vehicles now that are being used to test the company’s production system, train workers and also to rack up real-world test miles.

Speaking from the plant, Scaringe said, “We are building an entire digital commerce platform that allows vehicles to be transacted on, allows a Rivian-based insurance platform to be launched, houses our financing platform, but also, very importantly, houses everything in and around service.”