Elon’s electric cars are no longer a Musk-have.
“A lot of people said Tesla was really good about service in its early days, but now it’s a headache as the company scales,” said Skyler Williams, a 42-year-old from Austin, Texas. “There are issues with Tesla’s quality control, without a doubt — and then there’s Elon Musk, who’s a love-him-or-hate him kind of a guy.”
Even though he won’t get his next car until April, Williams decided to take a chance on a Tesla competitor and shell out $80,000 for a R1S — the buzzy all-electric SUV from Rivian, a brand-new company that has, as of Dec. 16, only produced 650 trucks and precisely two SUVS.
Williams has already been waiting patiently for his Rivian for three-plus years.
He’s one of the thousands of EV enthusiasts willing to pay big bucks for vehicles that barely exist from a company that is, so far, completely unproven.
Besides Rivian — which closed its November Nasdaq debut with a market value well above $100 billion, temporarily putting it ahead of GM — there’s also Lucid, whose new Air Dream sedan has been named the 2022 Car of the Year by MotorTrend.
Not that Tesla CEO Musk seems bothered.
“There have been hundreds of automotive startups, both electric and combustion, but Tesla is [the] only American carmaker to reach high volume production & positive cash flow in past 100 years,” Musk tweeted after Rivian’s IPO, after wishing the company luck.
But for some buyers, the idea of driving a once-cool Tesla, which is now part of taxi and rental fleets and increasingly purchased by an ever-older segment of the population, is a non-starter.
“Teslas are more of the norm, but that’s because until now they were the only game in town,” says Guilford, Conn., resident Jeff Manfredonia, 41, who’s been waiting for his Rivian SUV since early 2020. “I think of it like this: maybe your dream was to buy a Porsche your whole life, but then when you’re finally able to, you have other options.”
Jon Rettinger, 41, was one of the earliest purchasers of Tesla’s Model S in his hometown of Irvine, Calif. He’s been driving the brand since 2013 but was ready to try something different. His Model 3 bumper needed to be re-applied, and his friend’s new Model Y has been in and out of the shop for going on two months. This week, nearly a million Tesla Model 3 and Model S versions were recalled for safety issues.
“I wanted a more luxury experience,” the president and founder of JFL Network told The Post.
After hearing about the Air Dream sedan — which plans to produce just 520 of its debut model — the father of three called Lucid’s toll-free number and told the sales team that if they could get him a car this year, he’d cough up $169,000 for the luxury sedan.
“I have never driven a car even close to that price,” added the self-described “un-flashy” social media influencer, whose wife drives a Honda Odyssey.
But, Rettinger admitted, he has been enjoying the outright stares he gets whenever he takes out his Lucid Dream P, which was delivered two weeks before Christmas.
“I’ve been stopped several times by people who want to talk about my car,” Rettinger said. “People ask questions and even take videos.”
He loves the massaging seats, the ample interior space — “as big as a limousine’s” — and the powered front trunk, which Teslas don’t have. That it has 1,111 horsepower and the ability to go from zero to 60 in 2.42 seconds, plus a range of 470 miles on one charge, is even better.
“I feel like I get the luxury of a Mercedes plus the performance and, eventually, the technology of a Tesla,” Rettinger said.
He acknowledged that the Tesla Model S Plaid can go from zero to 60 in just under two seconds — “but I was happy to take .5 seconds less for 150 more miles of range.”
Despite the Tesla Powerball battery system in his garage, Rettinger said he’s never buying another Muskmobile for himself: “My Lucid is unlike anything else on the road.”
Way back in 2015, Austin’s Williams, the CEO of a private cloud and high-performance computing company, took a Tesla Model S for a spin, but didn’t think the sedan would meet his adventurous family’s needs.
“I was sold on electric vehicles after that test drive,” he admitted. “But, at heart, I am a truck guy. I like being high off the ground and I enjoy taking my Jeeps where you’d never take a Tesla: off-roading, camping, hiking.”
He had his eye on upstart company Bollinger but didn’t like the boxy design when final images were revealed — or the $125,000 sticker price. Then he heard about Rivian’s R1T EV truck in November 2018.
Within two weeks of the brand revealing its new model, he put down the $1,000 pre-order deposit on an $80,000 truck. “The power, the performance and the unique system with four independent motors to give precise control over each wheel … no one else has that,” Williams said, even though he’s only driven one once. Still, the itch for the newest toy prevailed: He switched to the R1S SUV when that was unveiled days after the truck.
As soon as his SUV arrives in spring, “I am going to scare my wife and kids! It’s an SUV that can go from zero to 60 in 3 seconds and I’ve heard it accelerates faster than a lot of Porsches out there,” he said. “The Rivian has the hydraulic-suspension architecture similar to a McLaren sportscar and a Suburban’s worth of storage all in a small, Tahoe-size package.”
And it doesn’t have the issues facing Tesla’s trucks. Delayed until 2022, the seemingly Mad Max-inspired CyberTruck has been widely mocked for its comically massive windshield wiper (“large adult wiper,” critics have jabbed), its unfinished “tabless” batteries, as well as its debacle of a debut in 2019. When lead designer Franz von Holzhausen went to demonstrate the vehicle’s so-called “armor glass” windows by tossing a metal ball at them, they shattered — prompting Musk to audibly mutter, “Oh my f–king God!”
Retired police officer Jeff Larssan, of Long Beach, LI, never even considered a Tesla: He’s a surfer, snowboarder and camper who likes his Toyota Tundra and Tacoma trucks. He had rented a Model X Tesla in Florida and didn’t love the experience. “There is nothing exciting or ‘adventure’ about it. It’s a little city car that’s low to the ground and is owned pretty much by Elon Musk fanboys,” he told The Post.
He was at the New York Auto Show in April 2019, searching for a new car for his girlfriend, when he first saw a Rivian.
“I go over to this prototype and I’m like, holy crap, that is so cool looking,” the 56-year-old said. He went back to the show the next day and spent hours talking to the representative and crouching around to get a look at the “skateboard platform” and wheel motors. On the train home, he put down a deposit for a R1T on the spot.
He’s still awaiting his truck but has already become a Rivian cheerleader: appearing on a community YouTube channel, Rivian Stories, with other fanatics and flying down to Atlanta in September 2020 for a pre-order holder event, where he met the company’s CEO, RJ Scaringe, 38.
“I’m not gonna lie: I have a man crush on this guy,” Larssan said. “What he’s doing, how well-spoken and intelligent he is without being cocky like Elon … I liked that.” Rivian brought him a truck to test drive out on Long Island; he took it on the sand and to the shore, and said everyone stopped him to take photos. He’s since started an Instagram handle (@Jazzys_Rivian_Adventure) devoted to his new truck, which should arrive by the end of February.
His $90,000 R1T comes with a camp kitchen and every other add-on. “Initially, Rivian said it would have 750 horsepower, but it came out at 835. You put your foot on the accelerator and your head flies back,” Larssan said. “It’s not like a regular car that needs to move through transmission gearing or an internal combustion engine, so it can speed up with the same thrust the entire time. It’s raw power.”
Of course, there is always the fear that, at some point, Lucid and Rivian could become as commonplace as Teslas; after all, Amazon — a big Rivian investor — has ordered 100,000 of the vehicles to be delivered by 2030.
Still, Manfredonia is not too worried about the SUV he ordered nearly two years ago, but doesn’t yet have: “If I hate it, I could probably flip my Rivian for a profit.”