Rivian CFO: Construction Start Close on $5B Georgia Plant

Dec. 1, 2023
Work is expected to begin early next year, with utilities and access roads among the early priorities.

After lengthy delays, construction is set to begin on Rivian Automotive Inc.’s factory just outside of Atlanta, CFO Claire McDonough said last week. The company was embroiled in several legal battles over development of the site, which will become its second production plant.

The first was a lawsuit by five residents against the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties and the company hired to clear the nearly 2,000-acre site for Rivian. The complainants, who either live or own property in Morgan County, alleged that the area was improperly zoned and was causing issues to the surrounding properties. They wanted a stop work order filed but were denied and their suit was withdrawn in December of last year.

Rivian’s plans also faced a lawsuit in federal court, filed in April, over environmental concerns from the site preparation work. This time, a local woman said muddy runoff from excavating the site ruined her property, as well as choked ponds and streams, violating federal law. However, her case and a subsequent appeal failed in court.

One of the biggest hindrances came from a lawsuit over the $1.5 billion incentive package Rivian received for choosing the Georgia location. (It’s the second biggest ever given in the state after the $1.8 billion deal Hyundai was offered for a plant near Savannah.) A judge struck down a central component of the incentive package in September 2022. However, appeals saw the incentives reinstated before, in July of this year, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear anything else about the case, giving the project a green light.

Conversations about the plant first began in mid-2021, just after Rivian went public. Executives announced they were looking for a second U.S. factory site and in December of that year said they had selected land roughly 40 minutes from Atlanta in Morgan and Walton counties. Construction was expected to start in 2022, with a production start in 2024. The legal challenges now have the Rivian team targeting the start of production in 2026.

Rivian cleared another notable hurdle Nov. 9, when it was granted final approval for construction, which is expected to cost $5 billion, by the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the JDA of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties. The plant is located on roughly 2,000 acres that will house the 16-million-square foot facility and will bring 7,500 jobs to the area as well as 8,000 indirect ones.

McDonough discussed the prep that has been done on the site so far at a recent investor conference, saying most of the work done until now has been on behalf of the state.

“[The state] has done a lot of the grading work,” she said. “We’re working on bringing additional utilities and access roads to the site.”

When at full capacity, the facility is expected to have an annual production volume of 400,000 vehicles. Rivian’s other plant, in Normal, Illinois, has a capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year. The Atlanta-area site will handle some of Rivian’s upcoming R2 production, which McDonough also discussed. While initially expected to be more expensive, the R2 platform will eventually be “a mass global platform” for the business.

“How do we take that essence of Rivian but get into the more affordable $40,000 to $60,000 price range package [so that a] much larger pool of the population can experience and purchase as well,” she said. “Thinking through tradeoffs, ensuring that we’re getting to the right level of material costs for that platform is so critically important.”

Shares of Rivian (Ticker: RIVN) have been up and down in the past six months. The shares hit a peak in August of $27.64 and are down to $18.03 as of writing, putting the company’s market capitalization at $17.2 billion.


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