Rivian nabs a coveted MotorTrend award for its debut EV pickup, putting pressure on Tesla

December 13, 2021, 2:10 PM UTC

MotorTrend awarded its prestigious 2022 “Truck of the Year” to an upstart: the electric Rivian R1T, setting a high bar for rival Tesla’s upcoming Cybertruck.

Rivian beat out finalists that other electric vehicles, including General Motor’s Hummer EV Pickup, to bag the prize with its very first model. The award goes beyond bragging rights. Rivian gains prestige and credibility at a key point when the upstart desperately needs to justify its $100 billion market cap.

For the first time, two out of three Golden Calipers up for grabs by the motoring magazine have now gone to electric vehicles. When its jury picked Lucid’s debut Air electric sedan as 2022 Car of the Year a month ago—within a month of the first customers receiving delivery—the company’s stock surged. 

Shares in Rivian, which counts Amazon as both a major customer and investor, traded 2.5% higher in the pre-market.

The judges were certainly impressed.

“The Rivian R1T is a monumental achievement, and astonishes with a quality of design, engineering, materials and technology unmatched in trucks today, while providing a driving experience like that of a high-performance luxury car,” said MotorTrend Group Head of Editorial, Ed Loh, in a statement. 

Tesla took home the title of 2013 MotorTrend Car of the Year with its landmark Model S. Yet its most recent model, the highly popular Model Y crossover, didn’t even make it to the short-list for 2021 SUV of the Year after being named a contender.

“Worthiest recipient”

Elon Musk may have a blockbuster on his hands though with the initially-ridiculed Cybertruck, now believed to have received more than 1 million refundable deposits from potential customers. 

Tesla recently revealed the upcoming truck will be offered for the first time in a quad-motor variant to match the Rivian R1T, and will be highly agile for its size thanks to its ability to drive sideways like a crab

Spy footage broke on Friday that depicted the vehicle, updated to include legally mandatory side mirrors, undergoing testing at Tesla’s new GigaTexas factory in Austin.

With its wedge shape and stainless steel exterior, the Cybertruck takes a more radical design approach to the pickup segment than Rivian, which packs a classic four-door crew cab look with open cargo bed.

MotorTrend’s reviewer praised Rivian’s R1T as the most remarkable truck he had ever driven, making it arguably “the worthiest recipient of the Golden Calipers in recent history,” according to the magazine. 

Rivian had enjoyed a dream start to its life as a stock exchange-listed company this autumn, celebrating what will almost certainly be this year’s biggest initial public offering

With its very first executed trade, the company was worth in one stroke more than Ford or even General Motors

Soon after, the company was the subject of reports that the first wave of deliveries would go to employees, suggesting the model was undergoing veiled field-testing

Afterwards, Ford, a major Rivian shareholder in its own right with roughly 12% of the shares, revealed it no longer planned to partner with the company, denting the company’s stock price.

Ford’s own F-150 Lightning, the electric version of the best-selling U.S. truck for 44 years running, is due to launch around the middle of next year and compete with the R1T.

CEO Jim Farley said last week he stopped accepting hard orders for the vehicle, which was not among the contenders, after demand for the EV crossed the 200,000 threshold.

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