Dennis Wang says he’s always hated the car-buying process — until he met Rivian.
The automaker’s purchase of the R1T electric pickup truck was so great that he says he drove 45 minutes to Rivian’s office in Irvine, California, to take the Rivian employee accompanying his purchase to coffee. (Rivian pairs new buyers with a “guide” who answers any questions during the process.)
Wang said he brought a thank-you card and a $100 gift card to REI knowing his guide had a trip to South America.
“I felt like I owed him something,” Wang told CNN Business. “He was very involved in the whole process and wanted to make sure I had a great experience.”
For example, Van said his guide remembered the R1T configuration he was initially interested in and found a vehicle that matched it and offered it to Van so he could get his truck faster.
Wang, like many new Rivian owners, praised Rivian’s customer service and vehicle quality.
They say their Rivians are among the best cars they’ve ever owned, if not the best. Some have compared their Rivian, which can hit 60 mph in about 3 seconds, to driving a sports car. The vehicles have flaws, including a recall that affected nearly every Riviana resident earlier this month, but fewer than they say they expect from a new automaker. At least one Rivian owner contacted the company after posting on an online forum about a problem with his truck.
“I thought Tesla set the bar, and it’s still setting certain aspects,” said Wang, who has never owned a truck before. “The Rivian is probably my favorite car.”
Rivian, founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe-trained MIT engineer, went public in 2021 in one of the largest IPOs ever, raising $11.9 billion, just two months after the first cars were built for customers. Companies such as Ford and Amazon have invested in it. Many auto experts say it’s best positioned among a group of electric car startups hoping to compete with Tesla and leaders such as Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors.
It faced mounting challenges as it launched three vehicles at once—the R1T, the R1S SUV, and a delivery van for Amazon. Delivery delayed. Rivian shares have fallen 66% this year as the electric car maker’s value has fallen significantly. Rivian laid off 6% of its workforce this July.
CNN Business interviewed 13 Rivian owners to find out how happy they are with their cars, which can cost around $100,000 depending on what options are included.
Matt Thomson was anxious to collect his R1T earlier this year. He never even test drove the pickup. He had waited more than three years for it after making a deposit and wondered if it could live up to the hype.
Thomson picked up his R1T at a service center near Denver and drove it home. There was a problem on the dirt road leading to his ranch.
Thomson parked his R1T at home and, looking at it, tried to demonstrate the pickup’s automatic bed cover, which opens and closes with the push of a button.
But it got stuck because dirt and gravel got stuck in it, he said.
Many Rivian owners describe similar problems with the feature. Some owners say they lubricate the part with WD-40 or graphite to prevent it from breaking. Some describe avoiding the use of the coating or being gentle with it to try to prevent problems.
“As you probably know, there are issues with our electric drive,” Rivian emailed owners in September. “While most work as intended, many do not.”
The company has since stopped shipping the feature and said it is working on a solution.
“It was a big failure on their part,” Thomson said. “But if that’s the worst thing that can happen to a brand new car company, I’ll take it.”
He says his Rivian tows his horse and donkey trailer better than his last vehicle, a 2020 GMC Sierra. Thomson was one of several owners who say it’s so smooth they almost forget they’re towing anything. Thomson said he likes the suspension, which automatically adjusts to stay level when loaded, rather than tilting back awkwardly like his older trucks.
“I had BMWs, Lexuses, everything else. Nothing even remotely compares to the way this one drives,” Thomson said. “Literally everything about it was just exaggerated. I couldn’t be more pleased than I am.”
Thomson said he saves about $650 to $700 a month on gas and takes more day trips with his family because he’s not concerned about the cost.
Oregon resident Phil Barnhart owns a Tesla Model S Plaid, which he calls “an absolute masterpiece of technological achievement.” The price of the sedan starts at $135,990 and accelerates to 100 km/h in 1.99 seconds, faster than a Lamborghini.
He says he owns Tesla stock and was the first owner of a Tesla car, the 2012 Model S that put the automaker on the map and became Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.
But these days, Barnhart drives his new R1T pickup more than his Tesla Model S Plaid.
“It’s the perfect ‘daddy car,'” he says of his R1T. It often drives three kids, their friends, sports gear and the family dog in what is essentially a mid-size pickup truck on par with a Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger.
He was one of several owners who spoke highly of the Rivian’s “gear tunnel,” an additional storage compartment located behind the R1T’s second row. They say it’s good for storing things like sports equipment or food. They say the gear tunnel door also serves as a convenient place to put on or take off shoes.
Barnhart was one of several Rivian owners who said they were pleased with how accurately Rivian estimates the range of their vehicles.
“Tesla’s range estimate is highly desirable,” Barnhart said. “Rivia’s range estimate is actually informative.”
Barnhart believes that Rivian’s first car, the R1T, is clearly better than Tesla’s first mass-market car, the 2012 Tesla Model S, which he owned. But Rivian’s software can’t match what Tesla offers today, including its Autopilot driver assistance software, Barnhart and other owners.
Tab Brewer, who says he was “impressed” with the quality of his Rivian, says he wishes it came with Android Auto, the car’s infotainment software, which he says is superior to what Rivian currently offers. Several owners say they’ve seen the Rivian’s software improve with over-the-air updates in recent months and hope for continued updates, including the car’s navigation, which many say they don’t use.
According to the owners, Tesla also has a more reliable charging network, which is suitable for long trips. For those who charge exclusively at home, they say this is not a problem.
Mike Feeley, who lives outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, says that when he and his son drove their new R1T to an antique car show, more people gathered around his truck than around the classic cars.
“Guys would come up and say these are the cleanest lines they’ve ever seen on a truck,” Feeley said.
Feeley and other Rivian owners say curious onlookers often get asked questions in parking lots or people in cars driving by take pictures.
Rivian also keeps a close eye on its cars. Feeley said the lights and warning lights on his truck started flashing and the power was flickering. He posted about it on a third-party online forum for Rivian owners and was surprised to receive a call from the automaker, who told him they would take the time to pick up the truck and fix it. He said Rivian reached out to him again when he posted a video of water in his doorway.
Some Rivian owners who spoke to CNN Business wondered whether the automaker would be able to maintain service quality and wait times while ramping up production. Rivian plans to produce 25,000 vehicles this year after delivering less than 5,000 vehicles in the second quarter of the year.
Rivian owners say they are so happy with their vehicles that they have passed on the opportunity to sell their vehicles immediately after purchase and make tens of thousands of dollars in profit.
Ross Gale describes himself as a business guy who has “very little attachment to any material object.”
He says he owned dozens of cars and sold many for profit during the Covid pandemic when car prices skyrocketed. But he won’t be selling his R1T.
As Gail says, “every time I see something for sale, I think, ‘How could anyone do that?’