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Rivian Appoints New COO; Preps for R2 Production

Rivian Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: RIVN), the Irvine-based electric vehicle maker founded by RJ Scaringe, has appointed Javier Varela as the firm’s new chief operations officer.

Varela will start in August and succeed Frank Klein, who was hired in 2020 and oversaw the progress of Rivian’s vehicle production, which included the electric delivery vans and R1 models.

In March, Rivian announced two new lines of mid-size electric vehicles, the R2 and R3 SUVs.

Varela will be responsible for the start of the production and manufacturing of the upcoming R2, which is expected to begin in the first half of 2026, according to Rivian.

He previously worked at Volvo Cars, based in Sweden, starting out in manufacturing and logistics and climbed to the roles of chief operating officer and deputy chief executive in eight years. Varela also spent time at Toyota’s venture in Prague and motor vehicle manufacturer Groupe PSA, which later merged into Stellantis.

“I’m looking forward to helping the company scale and continue to innovate as it rolls out R2 and its next generation of vehicles,” Varela said in a statement.

“[He] is bringing his deep experience in the automotive industry to Rivian as we are focused on profitability, operational excellence and delivering R2 to customers as soon as possible,” Rivian CEO Scaringe said. “Javier has a strong background in engineering, program management and innovation and a proven track record of success across a range of operating environments.”

Rivian, currently valued at $10 billion with shares trading around $10 apiece, is the largest automaker based in Orange County when ranked by local headcount, according to Business Journal data. It has around 2,200 employees across its local headquarters, production facilities and showroom in Laguna Beach.

Recent Investment

With this year’s announcement of the new mid-size models, Rivian plans to adjust production at its manufacturing facility in Normal, Ill. to accommodate an earlier delivery of the upcoming R2 SUV.

In the first week of May, Rivian received an $827 million incentive package from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to fund expansion at the Normal plant.

Rivian said the funds will also go toward public infrastructure improvements and job training programs in preparation for the R2 production.

“The support from the state will allow us to quickly bring our mid-size SUV, R2, to market and provide even greater consumer choice for EVs,” Scaringe said in a statement.

“Each and every dollar invested in this market is a win for the working people of Illinois and brings us a step closer to meeting our ambitious climate goals,” Gov. JB Pritzker added.

Rivian said it has invested more than $2 billion in the city of Normal and in the past three years has generated an additional $3.9 billion in value to the local economy.

The Normal plant started production in 2021 and spans 3.3 million square feet. Rivian reported that the facility has manufactured more than 100,000 vehicles since its opening.

Rivian is also in the process of building another manufacturing facility in Stanton Springs North, Ga. The location was meant to be the original launchpad for R2 production with an annual capacity of 400,000 units when completed.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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