Rivian’s main lobbyist is leaving the EV startup

Rivian’s main lobbyist is leaving the EV startup

Rivian Automotive Inc.’s chief lobbyist, Jim Chen, is leaving the company, the latest high-profile exit as the electric vehicle startup works to expand operations.

Mr. Chen, former executive of Tesla Inc. who joined Rivian in 2018, leading the company’s state-by-state fight to allow direct-to-consumer sales, a core business strategy for EV-only makers like Rivian and Tesla that don’t. ‘not using traditional dealerships to sell cars. He is expected to leave Rivian at the end of February, the company said.

His departure comes after several other senior leaders have left the company in recent months, including its general counsel and head of supply chain, as Rivian tries to cut costs to conserve cash.

Manufacturing factory

Workers lower an R1T truck body onto a chassis in the assembly line, April 11, 2022, at the Rivian electric vehicle plant in Normal, Illinois. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images/Getty Images)

A Rivian spokesman said Mr. Chen is leaving the company by mutual agreement and has expressed a desire to spend more time with his family and travel.

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“I’m proud of the work we’ve done, the impact we’ve had, and the team we’ve built,” Mr. Chen said in an emailed statement.

At Rivian, Mr. Chen was tasked with lobbying states to amend laws that compel auto companies to sell vehicles through franchised dealers. Mr. Chen fought similar legislative battles during his tenure at Tesla, and said the fight was more difficult at Rivian.

Mr. Chen also led Rivian’s federal lobbying efforts and regulatory affairs, running a small team that traveled frequently to statehouses around the country, as well as meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

brian kemp rivian

FILE – Gov. Brian Kemp passes over Rivian electric trucks after announcing that electric truck maker Rivian Automotive will build a $5 billion battery and assembly plant east of Atlanta that is expected to employ 7,500 workers, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in A . (AP/AP Images)

The move comes at a critical time for the startup’s relationship with Washington, which has thrown its support behind EVs but also implemented new restrictions that make it harder for some models to qualify for government tax credits.

Ticker Security last Change Change %
RIVN RIVIAN AUTOMOTIVE INC. 18.14 +0.04 +0.25%
TSLA TESLA INC. 143.75 +10.33 +7.74%

Under new rules passed as part of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, only electric trucks and SUVs costing less than $80,000 qualify for federal tax credits, a change the Irvine, Calif.-based startup said puts it’s a disadvantage.

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While both the R1T Rivian pickup and the R1S SUV have a starting price below $80,000, the company said most of its vehicles sell for more than that amount when other features and options are added.

Rivian, which went public in November 2021 with a valuation of about $86 billion in its first day of trading, has been struggling with some growing pains recently, including narrowly missing its production targets last year at its factory individual in Normal, Ill.

Rivian vehicles

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 10: Rivian electric trucks are seen parked near the Nasdaq MarketSite building in Times Square on November 10, 2021 in New York City. Rivian, an electric truck maker backed by Amazon and Ford, made its Nasdaq debut ((Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

The company’s share price has fallen 76% since it started flashing, and its cash pile has steadily shrunk to $13.8 billion at the end of September, the most recent period for which information is available.

Rivian recently postponed the launch of a cheaper model, called the R2, by a year to 2026. Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said the delay was to give a planned plant in Georgia enough time to prepare for production. start.

The EV maker has also experienced significant turnover in its top ranks, including the replacement of its head of manufacturing and chief operating officer over the past year. In July, Rivian unveiled plans to lay off 6% of its 14,000-employee workforce, a cash-saving move aimed at responding to inflationary pressures and tightening capital markets.

Mr. Chen was one of the main advocates of law changes to allow car makers to make direct-to-consumer sales.

The boot-wearing child of Taiwanese immigrants was a regular visitor to statehouses across the country and fought some of the earliest legislative battles against direct vehicle sales while at Tesla. Mr. Chen said in an interview last summer that he left Tesla after nearly six years after becoming burned out by the pace of work.

Meanwhile, the fight between car makers and car dealer associations over who gets to sell a vehicle has grown fiercer. At Tesla, Mr. Chen was able to create compromise deals that allowed the automaker to operate company-owned stores; he thought the dealers were not as ready to negotiate as they were at Rivian.

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In Georgia, where Mr. Chen helped Tesla win the ability to sell vehicles directly to consumers, he faced stiff opposition from the state legislature despite Rivian’s plan to build a $5 billion factory in the state.

EV startups have been able to sell their vehicles through company stores in Mississippi, but proposed legislation would prevent them from doing so except in narrow circumstances.

Rivian executives have said opening more company-owned stores is a key part of its retail strategy and is needed to lower costs and increase delivery to customers.

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