RJ Scaringe, CEO, Rivian
When most people first hear that alum RJ Scaringe (SM ‘07, PhD ‘09) has started a new car company, they are stunned. Why focus on a mature industry with a bad reputation? For those precise reasons exactly, says a determined Scaringe. MechE Connects had a chance to speak with Scaringe about his innovative new car design and reasons for taking on such a challenge.
With the auto industry at such a low and mature state, why did you decide to start a new car company now? What gaps did you see in the market?
The launch of a new automotive company right now is indeed a considerable challenge. But at the same time, there have been a number of market and industry shifts that make this a realistic objective. The recent downturn and need to diversify has made the supply chain hungry for new opportunities. The same is true for the distribution network, which has excess capacity and is hunting for unique, differentiated products. Furthermore, the capability of computer simulations has reduced engineering and development expenses by enabling deep design on the front end of the process. Beyond these lowered operational barriers, the focus on mass volume segments by the established manufacturers has created a number of white space opportunities.
What makes your car different?
Rivian’s first vehicles will be an unmatched portfolio of efficient performance cars targeted at enthusiast buyers. Additionally, our manufacturing and platform technology has led to a range of strategic partnership opportunities both domestic and international. We have developed a new approach to vehicle design and production that transforms the operations and economics of automotive manufacturing. This transformation shifts from conventional design and manufacturing to processes that are lean in every aspect, starting with a fully integrated team of designers and engineers focused on common, vehicle-based goals and carrying through to the actual vehicle production process. Rivian’s modular platform system provides unmatched flexibility for the rapid design and production of new vehicles. It enables greatly reduced capital requirements, while providing the flexibility to tailor vehicle designs for specific market opportunities. This platform and manufacturing technology has applications well beyond Rivian’s North American vehicles.
Your car will handle like a Porsche and achieve gas efficiency like an economy vehicle. How?
Rivian’s quick acceleration, outstanding handling, and distinctive styling provide the excitement and exhilaration of the world’s top enthusiast vehicles but with much higher fuel efficiency and a far more affordable price. Rivian’s lightweight platform enables the dramatic efficiency improvements. The US launch vehicle utilizes a mid-engine layout, rear-wheel drive, and double wishbone suspension, all of which provide a superb driving experience.
How did your time at MIT as a master’s and PhD student prepare you for this role?
The hard work and problem-solving techniques I used while completing my graduate work have proven to be extremely useful with starting Rivian. The process-oriented thinking and persistence required to solve complex problems carries over to both the technical and non-technical areas of Rivian.