In the early days of the 20th century, way before the Big Three emerged, America was home to literally hundreds of small automobile manufacturers, each competing in the lucrative new market for the "horseless carriage."
Could the same thing be happening with electric vehicles in the 21st century? Maybe. A recent and interesting turn of events in Illinois may provide some clues.
The gradually evolving start-up entity currently known as Rivian Automotive has closed a deal to purchase a shuttered Mitsubishi plant in the town of Normal, Illinois. It's the end-game move of a local process that's been playing out for a couple of years now, as the company emerges from "stealth mode" and begins plans to upgrade and modernize the facility. Rivian also launched a new website and introductory video (below).
The company plans to unveil its upcoming line of cars later this year and begin production at the Illinois plant by 2019.
So who's behind this Rivian Automotive, anyway? Plenty of heavy hitters, evidently, although the company has kept a remarkably low profile for years. According to industry reports, the chief engineer of its vehicle program is Lawrence Achram, a former Chrysler executive who led several vehicle programs including the Chrysler 300 and the Crossfire.
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Other top executives include industry veterans from General Motors and Ford. Rivian's founder and CEO, Robert Joseph Scaringe, has a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Founded in 2009 as Mainstream Motors, Rivian now operates research facilities outside Detroit and San Francisco.