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Mysterious auto startup Rivian bids on empty Mitsubishi plant

Rivian claims it would get the plant up and running in about five years.

Pre-production 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sports travel on the assembly line at the Mitsubishi Motors North America manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Photographer: Daniel Acker
Mitsubishi, Wieck

As the car industry moves in a totally new direction, a whole bunch of unheard-of startups are trying to cash in. The latest is Rivian, which hopes to transform Mitsubishi's former plant in Illinois.

Rivian put in a bid to acquire Mitsubishi's former plant in Normal, Illinois, Reuters reports. Its goal is to get the plant up and running in about five years' time, at which point it will reportedly start building an electric vehicle with self-driving capabilities, which sounds like a canned response if there ever was one.

The Normal facility was Mitsubishi's only North American assembly plant.


The plant in Normal has been closed since May, and if Rivian actually does build a car, it could bring some jobs to the region, which would obviously be a good thing. Normal's mayor told Reuters that the plant would employ about 500 people in 2021, growing eventually to about 1,000.

As for Rivian, well, nobody really knows what's going on there. Its website has a simple "coming soon" message, and that's about it.

A search of the ol' Google brought me to a Medium post that looks at the company in a, shall we say, critical light. It points out that Rivian has never built a prototype, it's only secured a small amount of private funding since 2009 but it sure hasn't been shy about accepting state incentives. The story also points out that Rivian's initial idea for a car in 2009 was a $25,000, mid-engine sports coupe that seats four people and achieves 60 mpg.

Amid reports like this, and the rumor that Faraday Future is running out of money for its manufacturing facility in Nevada, it's clear that even some of the most well-funded startups may have a hard time breaking into an industry that is rich with regulation and a high cost of entry. Rivian may very well buy up the Normal plant, but it'll be much longer before we figure out if the company will actually do anything with it.