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Rivian’s R2 pre-order numbers hint at pent-up demand for Musk-free EV innovation

No Musk, No Fuss.

Rivian

Rivian’s R2 reservations are off to a hot start. On Friday, CEO RJ Scaringe posted on X that the automaker had taken more than 68,000 reservations for the SUV in less than 24 hours. Amid alarmingly weakened demand for electric vehicles, perhaps there’s a latent interest in innovative EV companies when they aren’t helmed by a conflict magnet with a fixation on baseless conspiracy theories and the supposed online “rights” of Neo-Nazis.

Rivian’s 68,000 reservations hold up well against its most high-profile competitors. It took Ford about three weeks to get 100,000 pre-orders for the F-150 Lightning. Tesla’s Cybertruck got 250,000 reservations in less than a week. To be fair, reserving a Rivian R2 only requires a $100 deposit the same as the Cybertruck and F-150 Lightning.Customers plunking down a Benjamin to hold one have no obligation to pay the remaining $44,900 (and up) when the vehicle finally arrives in 2026, and even if they intend to buy one now, that’s plenty of time to change their minds.

You could argue that — like with Tesla and Ford — Rivian chose the low deposit to build hype, knowing full well that many pre-order customers won’t follow through. But it also helps that Rivian’s event on Thursday did everything the company needed. The R2 looks “quite fetching,” as Engadget’s Lawrence Bonk pointed out. On the inside, it has sleek and subtle details like two glove boxes, fold-down rear and front seats, a slide-out cargo floor and dual scroll wheels with dynamic haptic feedback on the steering wheel. It also has a 300-mile minimum range and a $45,000 starting price, which doesn't hurt.

And, of course, the surprise “One more thing”-style reveal of the cheaper, sportier and more compact R3 and R3X could help provide a halo effect for the company when it desperately needs to build excitement around its brand. In February, Rivian announced that it would lay off 10 percent of its salaried workers, and this week, it cut 100 employees at its Illinois factory. Still, the EV market could use a new “hero.” I have no idea if Rivian or its CEO, RJ Scaringe, has potential to be the face of the industry. But Elon Musk, its current poster boy, is a lightning rod for unnecessary turmoil.

In a survey of Americans conducted by The Harris Poll late last year, 45 percent of respondents said they had a lower opinion of EVs “because of the actions of people associated with them.” (I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean Ford’s Doug Field or GM’s Mary Barra.)

Perhaps Rivian’s impressive showing reveals at least some Americans have an appetite for an EV maker that’s neither a traditional auto company nor one helmed by someone who, at times, seems more interested in behaving like a teenage contrarian than a responsible adult serving as the public face of an industry the world desperately needs to grow up — and get people excited about driving electric vehicles — as climate change begins to ravage the planet.