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Former Tesla executive takes top engineering job at Rivian

Nick Kalayjian spent over 10 years at Tesla, and now he'll oversee engineering at the carmaker's budding rival, Rivian.

There's a new VP of engineering in town at Rivian.

Yet another former Tesla employee has landed at Rivian. According to a Thursday report from Bloomberg, Nick Kalayjian has taken the role of executive vice president of engineering and product at Rivian. Kalayjian spent over 10 years at Tesla, though he didn't move directly from the California-based EV maker to Rivian. Most recently, he was senior vice president of a California company named Plenty, which specializes in vertical farming.

Rivian confirmed Kalayjian's hiring with Roadshow. Kalayjian replaces outgoing VP of Engineering Mark Vinnels, formerly of McLaren.

Typically these kinds of moves don't grab much attention, but in the electric vehicle segment, onlookers watch more carefully -- especially when they involve Tesla, the crown jewel of EV startups. Adding to the interest is a recent lawsuit Tesla filed against Rivian. The former alleged an "alarming pattern" of Rivian hiring Tesla employees and accusing workers of taking trade secrets with them. Rivian denied all of the allegations.

Rivian isn't the only startup eager to hire away Tesla workers, however. Numerous startups continue to attract Tesla talent, perhaps most notably Lucid. The startup's CEO, Peter Rawlinson, served as the chief engineer on the Tesla Model S; so far, the company's Air electric sedan is shaping up to be something potentially quite special with a 500-plus mile range to boot.

This year was supposed to be a big one for Rivian as it planned to roll out its R1T and R1S electric pickup and SUV. However, the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to push the launches back into 2021. And with investment from Amazon, the company will also build a unique electric delivery van for Prime delivery drivers.

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