Rivian R1T electric pickup delay confirmed

Rivian's hotly-anticipated electric pickup truck, the R1T, won't arrive in time for late 2020 deliveries, the startup has confirmed, with coronavirus precautions meaning would-be drivers will have to wait a little longer. Announced in late 2018, the Rivian R1T – and its R1S SUV sibling – uses a brand new "skateboard" platform that the automaker intended to build in a factory in Normal, Illinois.

That facility – and Rivian's other locations in Plymouth, MI, Irvine and San Jose, CA, and elsewhere – are now shut down, however. In a message sent to pre-order customers this month, the company confirmed that COVID-19 would have an impact on its production timelines.

"Rivian is doing fine, but we do expect a delay," company spokesperson Amy Mast confirmed to SlashGear. "All of our employees are working from home and being paid in full, including hourly employees."

The first Rivian R1T pickup deliveries are now expected to begin in 2021, Mast confirmed. In its email to customers, Rivian said it would detail the new schedule closer to the time, when the full impact of coronavirus is better understood. It also included a video update of the various facilities.

"The world has changed a lot in these last few weeks," the email to customers read. "We've shut down all Rivian facilities to protect our team and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While this situation has required us to redefine workflows and rethink the ways we collaborate, it hasn't stopped us from making progress. From living rooms, kitchen tables, backyards, basements and newly cleaned out closets, our team is continuing to work hard toward bringing our products to life."

"This evolving new reality is not without impact on our program timing. While we expect some level of delay, we are working to minimize the disruption to our launch schedule and as we better understand the extent of the impact, you will be the first to know."

Word of the delay was first reported by the Chicago Tribune. It's unclear at this stage whether Rivian's situation will impact its work with Amazon on the fleet of electric delivery vehicles the two companies are collaborating on. Back in September 2019, Rivian confirmed that Amazon's EVs would "leverage much of the technology developed for the R1T and R1S, including battery, powertrain, thermal, controls, electrical network and [the] connectivity platform."

Rivian's platform is a so-called skateboard architecture, which packages the core drivetrain components – including battery, electric motors, brake system, and the management for all that, into a configurable slice onto which different body styles can be mounted. That skateboard allows for broad flexibility in different EVs: while the R1T and R1S are similarly-sized, Rivian expects to use the platform for smaller vehicles as well, varying configurations like battery and motor size to suit different segments and price points.

While the Amazon EVs will make use of that, they'll have custom bodywork and interiors, along with special suspension and software. They'll also tie into Amazon's logistics platform, and the retail behemoth – which is a stakeholder in Rivian – will have at least three different sizes of vehicle to suit different geographies. Amazon previously said that it expects to have the first Rivian-based delivery vehicles in operation by 2021, with 10,000 on the road by late 2022; we've asked Amazon for comment and will update when we know more.