Written by Edward Ludlow and Diana Hull
Rivian Automotive Inc. will soon set off on an aggressive sprint to upend the electric-vehicle business, with plans to start selling three models — a pickup truck, SUV and delivery van — in a matter of months. For this ambitious effort, it has harnessed powerful weapons: Former Tesla Inc. engineers who launched the company’s Model 3 sedan.
Charly Mwangi, Rivian’s manufacturing chief, and Nick Kalayjian, head of engineering, played key roles in bringing Tesla’s lowest-priced car to market in 2018. Each briefly worked at other startups before being lured to Rivian by the unique thrill of launching new vehicles, including the R1T, a truck geared to outdoor enthusiasts, that will go on sale in June.
They are not alone. Bloomberg has identified more than 50 high-level roles at Rivian occupied by former Tesla employees, from director to executive vice president. Including senior managers, that number rises to more than 100. In dotting its leadership ranks with veterans of the industry’s preeminent incumbent, Rivian has moved to improve its chances of emerging as the most credible challenger to Elon Musk’s electric car empire.
Rivian, an Amazon.com Inc.-backed automaker that has raised more than $8 billion, has grown to more than 5,100 global employees and is adding roughly 150 people per week. It has scored talent from a wide range of employers, including General Motors Co., Apple Inc. and Ford Motor Co., a Rivian investor.
But the Tesla hires stand out. Alumni of the automaker are in higher concentration in Rivian’s middle and upper management, giving chief executive officer R.J. Scaringe invaluable experience to leverage as he takes on Musk and seeks to avoid repeating his mistakes.
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