Rivian’s Big Slip & Recovery

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the things that Tesla is able to do is to have no traditional marketing communications, whether in the form of advertising or public relations activities.

When the CEO is nothing but voluble and he has 76.3-million Twitter followers, the company really doesn’t need a whole lot in the way of traditional comms. In addition to which, many people with Teslas aren’t simply owners but are absolute advocates. The amount of messaging they do dwarfs any conceivable paid media.

Earlier this week Rivian, the nascent EV company, announced that it was boosting the prices for its pickup and SUV. Anyone who has gone to a grocery store or a gas station knows that there are nontrivial price hikes.

But what Rivian did was not only announce the price rise, but said that it was applying it to those who had preordered the vehicles and had a configured price.

Suddenly that expected cost was increased by some 20%.

The backlash was swift and expected. At least expected by everyone who wasn’t in the Rivian executive suite.

Credit, however, must go to CEO RJ Scaringe, who publicly announced the error of their ways in an open letter.

Unlike other many other CEOs he announced that mistakes were made. He wrote:

“I am truly sorry and committed to rebuilding your trust.”

Those who had orders in place prior to the March 1 announcement will have their price honored.

Scaringe acknowledged, “trust is hard to build and easy to break.”

Although these are still comparatively early days in the EV world, the fact that there are a growing number of providers in that space mean that there are more options that consumers can select from.

No company wants to get a customer just once. And no startup company wants to lose a customer that it had.

It will be interesting to see whether Scaringe’s apology is going to not only recover all of Rivian’s pre-order customers but gain new ones.

At least the apology is good.

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