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What are these hidden vehicles in Rivian’s shareholder letter?

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On top of Rivian’s big VW partnership news today, we also got a look at what some of Rivian’s future plans might include – including some vehicles that we haven’t heard anything about before.

To recap the news, VW will invest up to $5 billion into Rivian and form a joint venture giving VW access to much of Rivian’s electrical and electronic architecture expertise. This will help Rivian with much-needed liquidity as it tries to get costs down and start generating cash flow from vehicle sales, and will help VW with the software issues it has been having in ramping up its EV projects.

To explain the news, Rivian posted a shareholder letter on its website, which is mostly filled with the basic financial details that we saw earlier in press releases.

But it also includes a graphic demonstrating the scalability of Rivian’s software across its platforms, meant to show how Rivian is unifying and simplifying its vehicle control software.

And that graphic has something very interesting – some hidden vehicles that we haven’t heard anything about yet. Have a look:

The obvious ones here are the already-released vehicles, Rivian’s RCV, R1T and R1S. The R1T and R1S are then repeated in column 2, in reference to the newly-released “Gen 2” architecture. This architecture led to a big upgrade in Rivian’s EVs for this model year, cutting lots of cost and complexity.

Then, in column 3, we have the R2 and R3 which Rivian unveiled in March. These will both be built on an architecture Rivian is calling “MSP.”

But despite that we’ve seen these next-gen R1 and MSP vehicles, both columns 2 and 3 have placeholder vehicles under covers.

While these are definitely just placeholder images and could be anything, they are notably a different size/shape than each other, suggesting that the unreleased gen 2 vehicle will be larger than the MSP vehicle.

The gen 2 vehicle could be an upgraded RCV, with more simplified electronics for cost-cutting, but the silhouette doesn’t look right. However, that might be an attempt by Rivian to obfuscate the car’s form, as a van silhouette would be quite obvious.

The unreleased gen 3 vehicle, then, does look lower and smaller than the gen 2. It could indeed be the R3X, but we’ve already seen that one, so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to put it back under a cover. That said, Rivian was a little more secretive about showing us the interior of the R3X, as compared to the amount of info it gave us about the R2, so it could be the R3X… but wouldn’t it be more fun if it wasn’t?

For one thing, it could potentially be an R2T, a more affordable and smaller truck. While we knew the R2 would come in SUV format, many assumed that Rivian might mention an R2 truck alongside the R2 SUV, given that the company started with a truck to begin with. We didn’t see an R2T at the unveiling, but maybe they’re still working on that. The silhouette under the cover doesn’t look like a truck – but again, that would be a dead giveaway, so it makes sense they’d just use a default image.

Finally, we reach the last column: “affordable mass market.” This, too, is new, and includes three separate vehicle forms. While we’ve already learned not to trust the placeholder images, note that the images are all different, suggesting that there might be a large, medium and small-size vehicle on this eventual platform.

When R2 and R3 were unveiled, many figured that the R3 would likely be lower price than the R2, which Rivian confirmed – but didn’t go any further than that to state a price range. We assumed it would probably be somewhere around the price level of the Volvo EX30 or Chevy Equinox – somewhere in the mid-30s. We figured this was the next step towards mass-market, as it would be lower in price than the R2.

Another category of “affordable mass market” vehicles suggests either that the R3 will be higher in price than we had thought, leaving room in the low-to-mid 30s for a 4th-gen platform, or it suggests that Rivian is working on a ~$25k vehicle to be in the truly affordable mass market range, among the lowest price level offered for new vehicles by most major manufacturers (and in the future dreams of EV makers, like VW’s ~$22k 2027 offering or the fabled $25k Tesla Model 2).

We also don’t know what size those vehicles will be. They may all be “crossover-like” vehicles like those Rivian currently makes and has announced (the R3 sits somewhere between crossover and hot hatch), and the vehicles under the sheets (which, again, we can’t trust) do look to have “Rivian DNA” and may just be photos of the R1, R2 and R3. But perhaps the use of 3 different vehicle sizes suggests that Rivian might be working on a sedan, a compact, a sporty small car, or something along those lines. The company’s first-ever project was a sportscar, after all.

Or maybe it’s nothing at all. We reached out to Rivian about this and were told “it just demonstrates how our software can scale across platforms.”

But if that’s the case, why not use photos of VW vehicles, or why use vehicles that are clearly Rivian-styled rather than generic lumps? Why have a covered vehicle under the Gen 2 column, which presumably wouldn’t be the architecture used by any partnerships (as MSP would likely be ready by the time this VW partnership bears fruit)? So, we still think there’s something here.

A final note is that, while we did know the R2 was coming and saw several leaks in advance of its unveiling, everyone was blindsided by the R3. Similarly, when Rivian first unveiled its R1T in 2018, it was a complete surprise to everyone despite that the automaker had been founded in 2009 and had been working in “stealth mode” since then. So, Rivian does know how to keep secrets, apparently, and your guess is as good as ours as to what’s under those covers.

What do you think Rivian is hiding? Or is it nothing at all? Let us know in the comments.

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