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Rivian’s Electric Vehicle Showroom in Nashville: More Education Center Than Car Dealership

The Tennessean

October 13, 2023

It has the modern, sleek vibe of an Apple store — except, instead of rows of computers, there is a large electric sport utility vehicle in the middle of the room.

You can’t buy fully electric vehicles at this shop, but potential customers can learn more about the brand. It’s more education center than car dealership.

Curious passersby stop to look and touch the R1T. It looks a lot different from the average truck on the road.

Welcome to a tech-forward showroom, right here in Nashville. To get to the Rivian Automotive Inc. showroom, travel through the music and neon of downtown to reach 5th Avenue and Broadway.

Irvine, California-based Rivian, founded in 2009 as a direct-to-consumer EV maker, is pursuing a new level of brand awareness across the country with a collection of contemporary showrooms. Several have already been unveiled, including a location in New York’s Meatpacking District and this Nashville site.

These spaces focus on detailing the vehicles’ technology to potential buyers, not hard sells. It’s staffed with customer experience specialists who walk guests through hands-on features such as charging station and design options.

“Rivian spaces are purposely designed to be casual and inviting, where anyone who is curious is welcome to come in to learn more about us and our products,” said Denise Cherry, the automaker’s senior director of facilities design and retail development.

Rivian emerged in 2009 as a competitor to Tesla’s first consumer vehicle, which debuted in 2008. Rivian went public in 2021 as one of the largest IPOs in history, raising an estimated $11.9 billion.

The company has experienced growing pains, which have manifested in falling stock prices and vehicle delivery delays. The waitlist for a new car peaked at around 90,000 midway through last year. This year, the company reported it produced more than 16,000 vehicles during the third quarter and before the year’s end, is on track to deliver more than 52,000 vehicles total.

Electric vehicle sales in the United States increased from 0.2% of total car sales in 2011 to 4.6% in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s estimated a little over 2 million electric vehicles are currently on the road.

Nashville’s Rivian Showroom

The new Nashville space is dominated by one of the brand’s two consumer models. The R1S is a large, three-row SUV capable of up to a 400-mile range on a single charge. The other vehicle — a four-door pickup truck with a ton of storage space called the R1T — is parked outside.

While 5th and Broadway is popular for tourists, Rivian’s senior director of customer engagement, Tony Caravano, said the brand wants to reach locals, too.

Inside the showroom, there’s a station to touch, see, and compare interior and exterior color options available for both models.

“One of my favorite aspects of the space is the chance for people to explore and learn what our options are,” Caravano said.

There’s also an interactive charging wall for guests to get a feel for the charging process.

“One of the things we know for first time EV owners is the charging experience might be new to them and might be a little confusing,” he said. “So, we’ve created a highly interactive space where visitors can actually see exactly what it would be like to charge their own Rivian.”

A wall filled with small brightly-colored sheets of paper serves as an idea board for long and short road trips. Why? Caravano said range anxiety is real for first-time EV owners, and the brand hopes to teach consumers what the Rivian vehicles are capable of.

If you want to take one of the vehicles for a test drive, you can book it on your smartphone or computer. You’ll meet at the Rivian space in 5th and Broadway.

In fact, almost everything about buying a Rivian vehicle is available on your phone. Choose the specifications you want for your vehicle — from the drive system to the paint color. Custom builds are expected to arrive in 2024.

And when it’s ready, it’s delivered straight to your doorstep.

Rivian’s Place in the EV Market

Manufacturing infrastructure for EV parts and batteries has expanded in Tennessee and across the South.

Tesla continues to dominate the EV market, making more than half of the electric automobiles sold in the U.S. Tesla’s factories are in California, Nevada and Texas. But many other car makers, from BMW in South Carolina, Kia in Georgia and Ford in Kentucky, are either already making EVs in the South or investing in new factories to produce them.

In Tennessee, Volkswagen builds its all-electric ID.4 in Chattanooga, GM makes the Cadillac Lyriq EV in Spring Hill and the new BlueOval City near Memphis will produce a new Ford EV pickup truck.

Rivian’s Big Picture Marketing Strategy

As more Rivian showrooms open up across the country, the company is aiming to expand its reach through brick-and-mortar retail.

“By planting roots in key areas across North America, we are building out our brick-and-mortar footprint to support current, future and prospective customers, meeting them where they are and showing up in a way that is authentic to Rivian,” Caravano said.

The company is planning or has already opened locations in Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Boston and, in California, in Yosemite, Laguna Beach, Pasadena and San Francisco.