By Ryan Ori
Electric vehicle maker Rivian plans to open a showroom in Chicago’s Fulton Market district, in a deal that offers one of the first glimpses of the company’s retail strategy.
The space, at 932 W. Randolph St., is part of Rivian’s plan to open 10 stores across the country this year, the company said. The automaker, whose assembly plant is in Normal, previously disclosed plans to move into a movie theater it is renovating in Laguna Beach, California.
“As we prepare to deliver our first vehicles this summer, we’re working to establish physical locations where people can experience Rivian in person,” Tony Caravano, Rivian’s senior director of customer experience, said in an emailed statement. “With a high concentration of Rivian pre-order customers, Chicago is a key location for us, and Fulton Market is a vibrant neighborhood and a great fit. Our vehicles are Illinois-built and we’re looking forward to sharing them with this community.”
The statement did not say when the Chicago store is expected to open.
Led by Tesla, the electric vehicle market is gaining momentum — as well as a growing field of competitors. Companies including Nio, Fisker, Workhorse, Hyliion, Nikola and Canoo are among the growing roster of companies offering electric cars and trucks.
Shortly after taking office last month, President Joe Biden announced plans to replace the government’s vast fleet of vehicles with electric ones made in the United States.
Rivian is valued at almost $28 billion before rolling out the first of its trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles.
The company in January said it raised $2.65 billion from a group of investors led by T. Rowe Price. Amazon, which has ordered 100,000 custom delivery vans, was among existing investors that took part in the latest fundraising round.
Rivian also wants to sell to consumers. Showrooms such as the one planned in Fulton Market are a way to broaden awareness of the brand, as Tesla has done.
Rivian took its first orders in November and expects to begin deliveries from its central Illinois plant, where the company said it has almost 700 employees, in June. Prices start at $67,500 for trucks and $70,000 for SUVs, which can be offset by a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles.
Irvine, California-based Rivian’s deal for Chicago retail space comes at a tough time for retail property owners, almost a year into a near shutdown of the economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rivian’s interest in the Fulton Market building was first reported by Crain’s Chicago Business.
The three-story building, owned by Chicago-based L3 Capital, formerly was a MB Financial bank branch. L3, represented by CBRE brokers, has been seeking retail and office tenants to move into it.
L3 Capital’s other Chicago developments have included bringing the sprawling Time Out Market food hall to a building two blocks north of the space Rivian will occupy.
Fulton Market, just west of the Kennedy Expressway downtown, has experienced rapid change in recent years. The former meatpacking hub is now filled with restaurants, retail, residential high-rises, boutique hotels and offices including McDonald’s global headquarters and Google’s Midwest headquarters.