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Rivian pushes pickup, SUV sales debut into 2021

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The shelter-at-home orders and other government restrictions that have brought North American light-vehicle output to a halt are forcing a delay in the debut of one of the U.S. auto industry’s newest upstarts.

Electric truck maker Rivian is pushing back plans to launch sales of a pickup and SUV assembled at a resurrected Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill.

The company planned to begin deliveries in late 2020 and now says customer shipments will begin in 2021.

“The world has changed a lot in these last few weeks,” the company said in a letter April 1 to customers. “This evolving new reality is not without impact on our program timing. While we expect some level of delay, we are working to minimize the disruption to our launch schedule.”

Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast said the company can’t provide more guidance on the sales launch beyond the 2021 window.

The delay was first reported by The Chicago Tribune.

Rivian facilities have been temporarily shuttered to protect employees. The Plymouth, Mich., company, with $2.8 billion in backing from Ford Motor Co. , Cox Automotive and Amazon, was scheduled to begin building the high-performance R1T pickup and R1S SUV this year. But the retooling project and other construction have been slowed because of the outbreak, Mast said.

Most of the plant’s 350 salaried and hourly employees have been idled because of the coronavirus outbreak, she said. Nearly a dozen Rivian employees and 60 contractors remain on site at the 2.6-million-square-foot factory.

“We’ve switched to social distancing and a mostly digital work environment to keep our plans on schedule as much as we can,” Mast said.

All Rivian employees — including hourly workers — are being paid in full during the hiatus, she added.

Amazon has ordered 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, with the first shipments of about 10,000 also scheduled for 2021.

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