The Rivian R1T purchasing experience needs serious improvement
Hopefully one man’s struggles with a Rivian R1T will shed some light.
I’ll start this off by saying I have no buyer’s remorse. Within about a day of driving the Rivian R1T—even in incomplete pre-production form, as was the case on our cross-country trip across America—I knew I had to have one. What’s more, the R1T impressed every TAT rodeo editor, and we even named it MotorTrend’s 2022 Truck of the Year, the industry’s highest honor. And so, on Flag Day, June 14, I received my Spinach Omelet electric minivan. Why spinach omelet? I chose the unusual and wonderful color combination of Compass Yellow on Forest Edge. Yes, my 835 hp minivan has a vegan “leather” interior in the color of vintage guacamole. The R1T is awesome. I love him.
But buy it? I would rather see a periodontist and have my gums scraped.
The process began when I made a $1,000 deposit, which fortunately I did before Rivian raised the price of the truck by 20 percent. Shortly after, a very friendly Rivian Guide — a designated customer service agent who helps each buyer through the process — called me to see if I had any questions. Since I’d already driven the truck 1,850 miles across six states, I only had one question: When would I get my truck? The conversation went something like this:
I: Can you tell me when I will get the truck?
Rivian Guide: I’m sorry, I can’t answer that.
I: Well, can you tell me if I should move closer to him or push him away?
R.G: I’m sorry, but I can’t answer that.
I: Will I get it in 2023?
R.G: I’m sorry, I can’t say.
If you can imagine my eyes rolling back in my mind, that’s good because that’s exactly what happened. If you don’t know, I’m on the staff of the popular car podcast “Spike’s Car Radio.” I used this big megaphone to tell the above tale in an episode. A month or so goes by and I receive an unexpected phone call from my Rivian guide. I’m paraphrasing here, but they said, “Hey, what if instead of the truck you ordered, we gave you a Launch Edition R1T with similar specs? That’ll only cost you $400 more, and you’ll get it in July instead of it being anonymous?” I questioned them sternly. Seriously, it’s identical specs? With yellow paint, green interior, underbody armor, off-road recovery kit, ski racks, all of that? Yes I checked. My exact specs. For only $400? How could I not? ?
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I agreed and was then asked to go and complete the eight-step purchasing process on the website. When I heard “eight steps,” I felt nervous. It seemed like too much. After more than an hour, I was thinking about smashing my laptop against the wall. I managed to complete five out of eight steps and my blood was boiling. The thing that killed me — aside from basically forcing me to sign up for Rivian’s Nationwide subsidized insurance to get to the next step — was the upfront value of my trade-in. I had a 2014 Ford Fiesta ST in good condition and slightly modified with 43,000 miles on the clock. Rivian offered me $10,400. Not only did I say no, I called my Rivian guide and said something like, “Are you kidding?!” No, I’ve been told that’s what the computer offers and there’s nothing they can do about it. Well, I’ll sell the damn thing privately.
In May, I received a phone call from a different, equally friendly Rivian employee at the company’s delivery center in El Segundo, California, just 0.5 miles from MotorTrend’s headquarters. “Your truck is here. We’re so glad you went with such a bold color. Whoa, whoa, whoa. It’s here? (Also, I still needed to sell the Ford, which I was able to do fairly quickly for approximately 50 percent more than what Rivian offered.) And because I was leaving for a Pikes Peak training, we settled on the day after my return, June 14, for the delivery. On the evening of Sunday, June 12, my friendly guide told me to be sure to bring a certified or cashier’s check with me on Tuesday. “What?!” I shout rudely. “Are you telling me this now? I’m in Colorado, coming back tomorrow, landing after my bank closes, and I have to work the morning of the 14th? How do I get a cashier’s check?
Then I was told there was another option. I can simply link my bank account to my Rivian account and pay that way. All I have to do is go to the site and link the two. Thirty minutes and dozens (well, hundreds) of expletives later, I decided there was no weird way to link my bank account to my Rivian account via the bomb website. I called my Rivian manual to explain this and ask for help. I mentioned that when I picked up my Alfa Romeo Giulia which I also custom ordered, I was in and out of the dealership in 26 minutes, it would have taken less time but they made me drive the car around the block. I’ve wasted more time than that on the Rivian website, and I’m angry. My guide had no answer, so I needed to delay delivery until I had a chance to get a certified check.
The next day I was told, you know, Rivian will accept a personal check from me after all. I’m not optimistic that an anonymous buyer will get the same statement, but at least we’re back. I left out the details of the seemingly endless series of documents to sign (it was like buying a property), but fortunately they are all e-signature type things. The next day I arrived at the MotorTrend office at 10:15am and the thing I was supposed to do was cancelled. I called my Rivian guide and arranged to pick up the truck later, not at 2:30pm as scheduled. Thirty minutes later, I arrived at the birth center but knew that my early arrival would mean things would take some time. Now, I know they don’t put gas on this, so I have no idea what caused the holdup, but my nice new truck was parked outside around noon.
I think the delay wasn’t because they were checking the paint, because a quick look revealed that the paint protection film on one of the gear tunnel doors was defective, resulting in my truck being gone. It’s fixed and 90 minutes later, I’m home. Hello! Although I have to say, handing over my truck that I knew had been sitting there for days if not weeks is crazy. But hey, the Rivian R1T is great and worth the wait.
An electrician came before I sat down to write this, to install the Rivian charger that the company shipped to my house. After about 90 minutes, it was ready and we tried pairing the unit with the Rivian app. No luck. We studied the instruction manual and tried pairing it three more times. Still no luck. A solid red light then comes on, which is an indication that you need to contact Rivian. After 20 minutes of waiting, the electrician left to work on other jobs. Eventually, I spoke with someone who told me I needed an electrician to move forward. Long story short – and many expletives spoken in private later – the electrician agreed to come back.
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Rivian wanted him to confirm that the charger was getting power from the breaker (it was at 240 volts) and to confirm that everything was connected and set up correctly. This was verified by sending images to Rivian for analysis. It turns out that the Bum charger is charging a new charger. This means that as of this writing, I cannot charge my new electric truck at home. This is terrible because I have to deal with the often unreliable Electrify America charging network. I know this will all be resolved and I’ll soon be happily driving around in my R1T spinach omelet, but man, little did I know I was carrying so much curses inside me. You learn something new every day.
The Rivian buying experience needs improvement.
I wrote this screed after spending an entire day dealing with Rivian’s faulty charger and the company’s new operations. The R1T’s VIN number ends at 05020. I don’t know the actual production numbers, but since my truck was built in May, I’m guessing the 7000th R1T hasn’t rolled off the line yet. Lamborghini produces more cars than that in one year. True to its word, Rivian shipped a new charger, had a third party remove the broken charger and install the good one, all of which took just a few days. Since then, the Liebermans have been experiencing charging and driving without problems and without gas, and both Alfa Romeos have ended up in the shop.
So why am I writing this? Rivian needs to streamline its purchasing experience. True believers like me who know how good a truck is will put up with this kind of nonsense. But with Ford’s electric trucks on the rise, the buying experience needs to be as simple as possible. Tesla perfected this process, despite numerous other mistakes. Cars just appear at your house. that easy. Rivian can get there. When it comes to cars, like many things, it’s the little things that count.