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Electric Automaker Rivian Opens First Chicago Showroom

Electric DTC automaker Rivian recently opened its first Chicago showroom, dubbed a Rivian “Space”. Rivian differentiates its showroom experience by emphasizing its adventurous and sustainable brand image and partnering with local, mission-driven organizations to celebrate its grand opening. 

Rivian Aims to Make Electric Vehicles (EVs) More Approachable for Midwest Market

Rivian challenges customers’ conceptions of EVs by making and selling large electric vehicles that promote adventure through advanced technology and rugged off-roading capabilities. Rivaling the common sedan design associated with EVs, Rivian offers a pickup truck (R1T) and a 7-seat SUV (R1S). Rivian is also an Amazon fleet vehicle partner.

Rivian is distinguishing itself from other DTC EV brands, such as Tesla and Lucid, through its more rugged positioning that pits it against leading OEM’s, like Ford and Toyota that are increasing their electric and hybrid offerings at competitive prices.  Since the company’s first vehicle launch in fall 2021, Rivian has now produced roughly 50,000 vehicles, with sales reportedly tripling in the third quarter of this year as EVs enter the mainstream. Since its founding, Rivian has been operating at a loss, however, reports suggest that the company is on track to become profitable by the end of 2024 as it scales.

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For its Grand Opening, Rivian Collaborated with Local Values-Aligned Companies

The Rivian Space opened in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago in September 2023.  There are 7 existing or “coming soon” Spaces across the US and Canada, and the showrooms are intended to expose new customers to its brand and mission.

Take a 1-minute tour of the store with us and experience the opening day events!

Rivian partnered with brands and organizations that share its mission of “building a better future”. A bouquet station from Chicago’s Flowers for Dreams Foundation invited visitors to select flowers out of the display vehicle’s trunk and create a bouquet for donation in the local area. This installation illuminated Rivian’s commitment to nature by having flowers physically overflow from one of the brand’s model trucks.

bouquet station

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Five Key Themes Underly the Rivian Showroom Experience

  1. Playground Mentality: Rivian associates encourage guests to interact with the vehicles. Phrases like ‘go ahead and get in’, ‘kick the tires’, ‘get in the trunk’, ‘climb into the gear tunnel’, ‘do whatever’ were generously thrown out. Bold, geometric shapes and simple classroom-style signage also coated the walls, creating a family-friendly playground motif.  Guests were also invited to test drive vehicles at the Chicago Space.
  2. Family-focused: With only two vehicles on the floor, a large portion of the environment is dedicated to flexible seating, which includes play blocks for children, books to read, a coloring station, and a “Where will the road take you?” interactive map. Honing in on its commitments to community and families, craft material from “Cardz for Kidz” was available for customers to write cards of encouragement that would be given to Chicago youth.
  3. Built for Explorers: Rivian branded swag, including water bottles, hats, and shirts, were  available for purchase. Associating outdoor gear with the Rivian brand strengthens its connection to consumers and to the rugged segment of the market that is still relatively untapped for EVs.
  4. EV Education: Rivian addresses negative industry perceptions about range and power limits on EVs through clear in-store signage dispelling myths on vehicle charging difficulties, with themes of ease, adaptability, and speed.  An area of the showroom focused on tires demonstrates the various terrains that Rivian’s vehicles can handle and maneuver.
  5. Sustainability: The color options for vehicle exterior and interior are brought to life through plaques and display boxes that explain the link between color choice and an aspect of nature, playing up Rivian’s positioning as a good for the planet manufacturer. To further its connection with sustainability, Rivian collaborated with Nature’s Fynd, a fungi-based protein company, to provide vegan and regenerative snacks for shoppers.
color options and truck

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McMillanDoolittle POV

We commend Rivian for embarking on this difficult task of educating, enticing, and enabling customers to shop electric in a market historically dominated by American-made gasoline-powered vehicles. Although electric automobiles are a fast-growing segment in the marketplace, only 9% of Americans currently own an electric vehicle. As US EV production and adoption advances, Rivian must continue enhancing its technology and crystallizing its brand identity to remain competitive in an increasingly crowded field that includes native EV brands and traditional brands that are investing in EVs, such as Audi (and we invite you to learn more about Audi’s 2023 showroom and service center here).

Though Rivian touts its cutting-edge technology and “completely connected vehicle” experience on its digital platforms, the Chicago Space is crafted to be a largely analog experience – perhaps a missed opportunity to showcase its technological points of difference. As a premium DTC automaker, Rivian Spaces are likely to become crucial to Rivian’s growth strategy of acquiring and educating potential customers onto its platform. Time will tell if the brand’s messaging of adventure, family-friendliness, and nature is strong and clear enough to appeal to the midwest luxury automotive consumer. If you’re looking for support to build relationships with new consumers, contact McMillanDoolittle for a complimentary consultation.

white truck

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Maddie McBride

Maddie is an analyst on the consumer insights and innovation team at McMillanDoolittle, supporting quantitative and qualitative primary research methodologies, business analysis, strategic planning, and new concept, format and product development. She brings recent expertise in human-centered design, creative workshop facilitation, and statistical analysis to her project work. Maddie received her BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame.

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