Don’t look now, but the auto industry is changing — fast. A new era is on the horizon as two newcomers grab top auto industry honors.
It may be a surprise to some to see a pair of electric vehicles in the top spots with the Teslas, Fords, Chevys, Mercedes et al in the running, but insiders understand the impact of EVs on the auto industry. That impact is illustrated by the recent announcement that the Rivian R1T electric pickup was awarded one of the auto industry’s most coveted awards recently when Motor Trend magazine named it Truck of the Year. Rivian beat out legacy automakers, including Ford and Hyundai. The R1T’s victory comes a month after Motor Trend gave the trophy for Car of the Year to another EV startup, Lucid, and its new Air sedan.
The Winds of Change
With two EVs — the Rivian R1T and the Lucid Air among the finalists in the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, change is most definitely on the way, “what we’re seeing is a response to the changes in the industry,” said Stephanie Brinley, the principal automotive analyst for IHS Markit. ”This is a reflection of what the startups have been able to accomplish,” Brinley said, adding that it “is shaking up the industry.”
Across the automotive landscape, freshly minted EV auto startups are charging onto the scene, bringing disruption to the industry on a scale not seen since the end of World War II. Brands like Fisker, Atlas, Byton, Canoo and Faraday Future are working to avoid the pitfalls experienced by Bricklin, Kaiser-Frazer and Vector.
The Advanced Rivian Technology
Strong backing from investors like Ford and Amazon, which ordered 100,000 all-electric delivery vans for its Prime service, makes the R1T one of the most important new vehicles in recent history. The R1T (Rivian’s first entry into the retail market) had the editors of Motor Trend seeing stars.
“The Rivian R1T is a monumental achievement and astonishes with a quality of design, engineering, materials, and technology unmatched in trucks today, while providing a driving experience like that of a high-performance luxury car,” gushed Ed Loh, Motor Trend head of editorial. “As the first all-electric pickup truck to market, the R1T manages to achieve all of this without offending historic truck-buyer sensibilities.”
Rivian has developed an innovative skateboard-like platform, with batteries and motors mounted below the load floor. The pickup will come in a variety of configurations, starting with the $73,000 Launch Edition, loaded up with features from sophisticated wood and faux “leather” interior trim to a Level 2 driving assistance system.
The win puts the startup on the map, much as the Car of the Year trophy does for Lucid. Intended to compete with conventional premium luxury models like the iconic Mercedes-Benz S-Class, as well as the Tesla Model S, the Air sedan also made headlines when the Environmental Protection Agency estimated its range at up to 520 miles.
Lucid is a Worthy Tesla Rival
In early December, Lucid Motors intensified customer deliveries of the Lucid Air Dream Edition cars in the U.S. at multiple locations simultaneously. The cars produced at the manufacturing facility in Casa Grande, Arizona are not only in California, but already on the East Coast.
With up to 520 miles of EPA-estimated all-electric range and as much as 1111 horsepower, the 2022 Lucid Air aspires to be much more than a mere Tesla rip-off. The first model from startup Lucid Motors boasts an aerodynamic shape that’s functional and fashionable. Its spacious and upscale cabin is covered by a glassy canopy that should help it live up to its atmospheric name. The Air also mixes practicality with technology, sporting capacious storage options, and no shortage of driver assists.