Amazon-backed EV startup admits ‘most painful’ mistake yet and cancels price hikes after a stock rout

March 3, 2022, 7:03 PM UTC

Under acute pressure to correct course, Amazon-backed EV startup Rivian conceded it made its “most painful” mistake yet and said it will roll back upcoming price hikes for most of its customers.

After sparking a storm of online outrage culminating in a double-digit decline in its shares on Wednesday, founder R.J. Scaringe admitted he shattered fans’ trust when he jacked up the prices of his two models without warning. 

“I have made a lot of mistakes since starting Rivian more than 12 years ago, but this one has been the most painful. I am truly sorry and committed to rebuilding your trust,” he wrote in an open letter on Thursday, passing off the blunder as a learning mistake. 

Some 48 hours earlier, his company informed customers who had already placed deposits on their battery-powered R1T trucks or R1S crossovers that they would be paying up to 20% more to account for the higher cost of materials.

Thursday’s admission didn’t give a boost to its stock, however. It fell another 5% in trading to return to its record low from late January near $50 a share, well below its IPO price of $78.

The March 1 vehicle price hike prompted such a backlash that customers took to social media to air their grievances over what some have called a sneaky move, even a bait and switch.

The move is particularly damaging as Scaringe’s company only recently started production late last year, with barely over 1,000 vehicles built to date. It is of crucial importance for such a new brand to generate good word of mouth early on from customers.

“We wrongly decided to make these changes apply to all future deliveries, including preexisting configured preorders. We failed to appreciate how you viewed your configuration as price locked,” Scaringe continued, adding it was a mistake to think customers would be fine with less powerful versions substituted for the same price.

Rivian said it will now honor earlier expectations: Those who preordered a Rivian prior to the March 1 announcement will have that price, configuration, and delivery date reinstated, as well as any customers who canceled their order as a result, if they so choose.

Scaringe is not backing away from price hikes for future customers, however. He pointed out in the letter they were justified given the average new vehicle price had risen more than 30% since the company first unveiled its planned prices in 2018. 

Rivian’s misstep also sparked the interest of Tesla influencer Omar Qazi and his Whole Mars social media account, which warned Elon Musk he should take note of the fallout when it comes to repricing the Cybertruck. Tesla pulled its configurations in October in advance of potential hikes to its price tag.

Scaringe’s backpedaling is only the latest setback for a company that briefly became the world’s fifth largest carmaker by market capitalization, just days after its record IPO in November, only to see its stock price plunge nearly 70% from its stratospheric heights. 

Previously, strategic investor Ford said it would no longer procure vehicle chassis from Rivian for a Ford-badged model, before Amazon decided early this year to hedge its bets and source Ram ProMaster EVs for use as delivery vans in addition to Rivian’s own EDV vans.

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