A 2017 Luxury Institute study named the Rivian R1 Sedan (pictured) the world’s best new luxury car. But now, its less impressive rivals could enter the race to profit from a future where cars are smart enough to talk to each other.
Rivian announced Thursday it would send its all-electric Sedan and a small SUV to a court hearing on June 27 to explain its capital structure. The company has been trying to work out how to file an initial public offering, and a federal judge on Wednesday approved an extension on the documents it will need to answer questions about its finances.
Rivian, a Silicon Valley startup, hopes to raise $1 billion from the IPO. After five years in business, the company has sold its vehicles only in the California market and the Pacific Northwest, as it waits to market the vehicles in other parts of the country.
The court filing will have to reveal how much equity stock has been sold and who has taken the money. Earlier reports have indicated that once the IPO is out of the way, additional equity will be available to investors who aren’t shareholders in the company.
The carmaker, led by the former Jeep CEO, began selling its cars last month.
Rivian’s Sedan and the SUV, all but invisible in the human world, are smart enough to let them text or call their owners back via an app. That can include driver alerts, lane changes and vehicle information.
One of Rivian’s competitors is BMW. The German carmaker, which has not yet commented on Rivian’s pending IPO, operates the Drive Now short-term rental program in New York City, in which BMW owns the cars and rents them to consumers. The next day, the cars are repossessed and BMW collects the cost of the lease agreement.
German carmakers have also said they are developing car-sharing programs for adults. VW and Daimler are two of the companies testing a “mobility as a service” concept that allows participants to rent vehicles when they are not needed.
But each of these efforts so far has garnered mixed results. Daimler unveiled a few cars for car-sharing last year but canceled its online car-sharing idea in December because of “market constraints.” Meanwhile, Audi is thought to be developing a short-term rental concept, but it has not revealed any details yet.
In May, the Economist reported that, in order to gain a competitive edge, some other manufacturers may also be developing systems to manage the cars’ infrastructure.
“Rivian’s technology is, in some senses, in the forefront of a small group of companies that are trying to develop a new generation of what they call Level 3 self-driving cars, where they may interact with each other and one another and have certain social functions,” said Daniel Kutschera, research director at automotive consultancy IHS Markit.
While potential partners might be willing to invest in a luxury car that talks to cars around it, the market for this technology has not yet proved it can be a profitable endeavor. So far, none of the companies that have brought a Level 3 self-driving vehicle to market have delivered a profit.
This could all change, but Kutschera said it’s too early to tell.
“It’s a little too early to know,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for everyone to figure out how to deploy autonomous cars for the commercial vehicle market.”