Electric vehicles are transforming the automotive landscape, and two of the most exciting companies leading the charge are Tesla and Rivian. Both are relatively new players bringing bold, innovative products to the EV marketplace. But they have key differences in their histories, product lineups, technology approaches and more.
This in-depth comparison examines all angles of Tesla versus Rivian to understand their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Brief Histories of Tesla and Rivian
Tesla was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who were later joined by JB Straubel and the company‘s most famous leader, Elon Musk. The company‘s name is a tribute to electrical engineering pioneer Nikola Tesla.
Tesla‘s overarching mission has been to accelerate the world‘s transition to sustainable energy. It entered the market with the Tesla Roadster sports car in 2008, followed by the Model S sedan in 2012, Model X SUV in 2015, Model 3 sedan in 2017 and Model Y SUV in 2020.
In addition to vehicles, Tesla has invested heavily in building out electric charging infrastructure and produces solar panels and energy storage systems for homes and utilities.
Rivian was founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe as Mainstream Motors, focusing initially on developing a fuel efficient sports coupe. However, Scaringe changed course in 2011 to pursue fully electric vehicles.
The company changed its name to Rivian in 2011 and operated in "stealth mode" for several years as it developed prototypes. Rivian debuted its first two products, the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV, at the 2018 LA Auto Show.
Rivian‘s vehicles started production in 2021 and are just now reaching customers. The company received major investments from Amazon and Ford early on, viewing Rivian‘s EVs as strategic for their own businesses.
Vehicle Lineups: Current and Future
Tesla‘s current models include:
- Model S – Sedan originally launched in 2012, starting around $104,000
- Model 3 – Lower priced sedan launched in 2017, starting around $46,000
- Model X – SUV launched in 2015, starting around $114,000
- Model Y – Compact SUV launched in 2020, starting around $65,000
- Cybertruck – Futuristic pickup truck announced in 2019, production from late 2022, starting around $40,000
Tesla also has two additional vehicles planned for the future:
- Roadster – Next generation sports car with claimed 0-60 mph under 2 seconds, starting around $200,000
- Semi – Electric semi truck for commercial use, production delayed to 2023
Rivian currently offers two models:
- R1T – Electric pickup truck launched in 2021, starting around $67,500
- R1S – Electric SUV launched in 2021, starting around $70,000
Rivian also has two other models in development:
- Electric delivery van for Amazon, which invested in Rivian in 2019
- R2 – More affordable, smaller electric SUV expected by 2025, around $55,000
So while Tesla currently offers more diversity in its lineup, Rivian‘s models fill an important gap by offering the first electric pickup and a capable electric SUV.
Tesla Cybertruck vs. Rivian R1T Pickup Truck Comparison
The Cybertruck and R1T are two of the most hotly anticipated electric pickups coming to market. Let‘s see how they stack up on specs, capabilities and styling.
Performance and Range
- Cybertruck – Offered in 3 versions with 250+, 300+ and 500+ mile range. Quickest model hits 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
- R1T – Max range of over 300 miles. Quickest model hits 60 mph in 3 seconds flat.
The performance and range specs are quite evenly matched, with both companies claiming class-leading results.
- Cybertruck – Up to 14,000 lbs towing capacity, 100 cubic ft (3.5m) vault storage
- R1T – 11,000 lbs max tow rating, can fit gear tunnel for extra storage
Tesla expects the Cybertruck to have greater towing strength while Rivian offers innovative storage areas.
- Cybertruck – Made of ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled steel, armored glass, adjustable air suspension for higher ground clearance
- R1T – Built for off-road use with all-terrain tires, underbody armor, electro-hydraulic suspension lift up to 14.9 inches
Both companies emphasize off-road credentials but Rivian focuses more uniquely on extreme adventuring abilities.
- Cybertruck – Futuristic, angular design based on a cyberpunk armored vehicle
- R1T – More conventional truck styling but distinctive front lighting and details
Here tastes will vary widely! The Cybertruck has a dramatic, polarizing design while the R1T has a more typical truck shape.
Pricing and Availability
- Cybertruck – Starts around $40,000 but highest spec model nears $70,000. Production expected to begin in late 2022.
- R1T – Starts around $67,500 and reaches $85,000 for top models. Production began fall 2021.
Rivian has a head start in manufacturing and orders, while Cybertruck pricing may attract buyers on a budget once available.
Tesla Model X vs. Rivian R1S Electric SUV Comparison
The Model X and R1S are both all-electric SUVs with 3 rows of seating and high performance. Here‘s how they stack up.
Performance and Range
- Model X – 0-60 mph as quick as 2.5 seconds. Ranges from 333 up to 520 miles.
- R1S – 0-60 mph in 3 seconds flat. Max range of over 300 miles.
Again the acceleration and range are closely matched between the two vehicles.
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
- Model X – Seats 5-7 passengers. Front and rear trunk storage with total 88 cubic ft.
- R1S – Seats 5-7 passengers. Front trunk, rear cargo and gear tunnel storage give ample space.
The passenger capacity is identical. Both offer generous storage that can be expanded by folding seats.
- Model X – Available air suspension adjustable up to 10 inches for ground clearance.
- R1S – Electro-hydraulic suspension adjustable up to 14.9 inches. Improved approach/departure angles.
The R1S chassis and suspension are purpose-built for more extreme off-roading.
- Model X – Distinctive falcon wing doors, panoramic windshield. Updated interior and exterior for 2021.
- R1S – Front daytime running lights span entire width of vehicle. Spacious interior with emphasis on premium materials.
Again personal styling preferences will differ here. Both vehicles have signature design elements inside and out.
Pricing and Availability
- Model X – From $114,990 and up. Fully available.
- R1S – From $72,500 and up. Deliveries began January 2022.
The R1S offers a more affordable starting price point though Model X offers higher performance versions.
Technology: Autonomy, Batteries and Software
Autonomous Driving Technology
- Tesla – Offers "Autopilot" driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, auto lane changing and self-parking. Claims vehicles have hardware for full self-driving capability.
- Rivian – Driver+ system offers hands-free highway driving assistance. Rivian hasn‘t emphasized full autonomy but vehicles have necessary hardware.
Tesla has been the more vocal proponent of self-driving technology, though its full capabilities remain unproven and unavailable to consumers so far. Both automakers take a cautious approach to ensure safety.
Battery Range and Charging
- Tesla – Has leading battery range thanks to excellent efficiency. Operates huge Supercharger fast charging network.
- Rivian – Batteries deliver competitive range. Rivian Adventure Network will build out DC fast charging network for owners.
Tesla currently enjoys an edge with its charging infrastructure to support long distance travel. Rivian aims to reduce range anxiety by building more chargers.
Software and Vehicle Controls
- Tesla – Large central touchscreens provide control over all vehicle settings. Regular over-the-air software updates add features.
- Rivian – Driver oriented touchscreen and intuitive on-screen controls. Built on flexible software architecture for easy updates.
Both companies recognize the importance of user-friendly software interfaces and the ability easily add improvements via updates. This gives them an advantage over traditional automakers.
Manufacturing: Factories and Production
Tesla originally worked with suppliers like Lotus to produce its early vehicles but has vertically integrated manufacturing capabilities over time. It now operates highly automated "gigafactories":
- Fremont, CA plant produces Models S, 3, X and Y
- Gigafactory Shanghai in China produces Models 3 and Y for local market
- Gigafactories in Austin, TX and Berlin, Germany coming online in 2022
With multiple factories on three continents, Tesla expects to grow production 50% per year over a multi-year horizon.
Rivian has taken over the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL as its manufacturing hub. This large facility provides room for expansion.
Rivian‘s production ramp has been slower than Tesla‘s historically, but the company still expects to produce 25,000 vehicles in 2022 and 150,000 annually by late 2023.
Tesla‘s more mature manufacturing operations give it higher production volumes currently. However, Rivian is rapidly expanding capacity to meet demand. Both automakers use innovative techniques to accelerate production.
Sales and Availability
Tesla delivered over 936,000 vehicles in 2021. The Model 3/Y now make up majority of sales at over 630,000, with nearly 100,000 Model S/X delivered.
Tesla continues to see strong demand outpacing supply, with order backlogs lasting 6-12 months on some models. The Cybertruck has over 1.2 million reservations.
Rivian delivered about 1,000 vehicles by end of 2021, mostly R1T pickups for early pre-order customers. It has over 71,000 total preorders as of March 2022, with the R1S SUV making up nearly 20% of that.
Rivian is still working through early pre-orders and waitlists extend into 2023. The company is focused on ramping production versus broad geographic availability for now.
Again, Tesla‘s sales volume is vastly higher currently. But Rivian‘s preorders demonstrate there is huge excitement for their products which can support growth in the years ahead.
Financial Standing and Outlook
As of Q1 2022, Tesla has:
- Annual revenue of over $60 billion
- Gross automotive margins around 30%
- Net income of $5.5 billion in 2021
- Over $17 billion in cash on hand
Tesla is the first and only consistently profitable new US auto manufacturer in decades. Its financials have strengthened as sales volumes grow.
For Rivian‘s 2021 fiscal year:
- Revenue totaled $95 million
- Lost $4.7 billion for the year as it ramps production
- Had over $18 billion cash after IPO and financings
Rivian has invested heavily ahead of ramping production and sales. Its cash position is strong but expenses will remain high as it grows manufacturing and distribution capabilities.
In short, Tesla‘s large scale translates into robust financials, while Rivian has ample capital but must move towards profitability long-term.
Tesla was essentially the only successful EV startup for years, but the playing field is getting more crowded. Rivian now leads among EV pickup trucks, while many automakers are expanding their electric lineups.
Rivian‘s direct competition includes:
- Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup
- Mercedes EQS and EQE luxury electric sedans/SUVs
- Audi e-tron SUVs
- BMW iX SUV
Tesla faces competition from:
- Porsche Taycan sedan
- Jaguar I-Pace SUV
- Lucid Air luxury electric sedan
- NIO ET7 luxury electric sedan (in China)
- Polestar 2 electric sedan
Established automakers also aim to convert product lines to fully electric. Overall, consumers have more EV choices but Tesla and Rivian still lead in critical segments.
Analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of Tesla and Rivian yields additional insights into their situations.
- Tesla – Strengths in technology, brand and infrastructure. Challenges scaling production and managing costs. Growth opportunities globally. Faces competition from new EV startups.
- Rivian – Innovative products create buzz. Needs to prove production and service capabilities. Major growth opportunities in electric pickup and SUV markets. Relies on continued investor support.
Both companies exhibit strong product advantages countered by production and scaling difficulties common among startups. Their futures depend on flawless execution.
As both Tesla and Rivian are public companies, many investors consider their stocks an attractive way to gain exposure to the EV revolution. Let‘s compare on valuation metrics:
- Tesla has a market cap around $731 billion. 2021 PE ratio around 162x and P/S ratio 13x.
- Rivian has a market cap around $37 billion. 2021 PS ratio 56x (no meaningful PE with losses).
Tesla bulls point to:
- First mover advantage, brand prestige, and tech leadership support premium valuation
- Rapid sales and profit growth implies ratio expansion over time
- Opportunity to disrupt massive auto and energy industries
Rivian bulls highlight:
- Valuation lower than mature automakers though growth prospects much higher
- Preorders demonstrate demand for innovative products
- Underpenetrated market for electric trucks and SUVs
- Backing of Amazon, Ford provides stamp of approval
Of course, both stocks carry significant risks if execution stumbles. But for investors eager to benefit from electric vehicle adoption, Tesla and Rivian represent two of the most compelling options.
The Verdict: It‘s Not Tesla vs. Rivian
This in-depth look makes clear that both Tesla and Rivian have unique strengths in the EV space. Tesla enjoys first mover status, higher production volume currently, and unparalleled brand appeal. Rivian has seized leadership in the electric pickup truck segment, aims to deliver a premium SUV alternative, and has strong financial backing.
Rather than viewing these companies as purely competitors, it‘s wise to see them as allies accelerating the broader adoption of electric transportation together. Their offerings appeal to different audiences and expand the EV ecosystem.
For eco-conscious consumers excited about the transition away from gasoline, Tesla and Rivian both offer compelling choices. Savvy investors can see the long-term upside for both. In a rapidly growing industry, there is room for multiple winners.