WSJ US BusinessRivian Recalls Nearly All of Its Vehicles Due to Loose Fastener

October 8, 20220
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Rivian Automotive Inc. RIVN -7.64% is recalling nearly all of its vehicles to address a potential problem that could cause drivers to lose steering control, the latest challenge for the fledgling EV startup as it expands sales of its first models.

The electric truck and SUV maker said the recall was made after it discovered a fastener connecting the upper control arm and steering knuckle may have been improperly installed.

The problem could lead to excess wheel camber or tilt, and in some rare cases, separation of the wheel, impacting the driver’s ability to steer the vehicle, the auto maker said in a regulatory notice posted this weekend.

The recall campaign covers about 13,000 vehicles built in late 2021 and through September of 2022, and there are no known injuries related to this defect, a company spokeswoman said. Of the population of recalled vehicles, Rivian estimates 1% are impacted by this defect, the regulatory notice shows.

Recalls are common in the car industry, especially in new vehicles, and this type of defect is one that many manufacturers have encountered in the past. Rivian’s stock was roughly flat in after-hours trading, following news late Friday of the recall.

The safety recall comes at a critical time for Rivian, which is accelerating production at its plant in Normal, Ill. in a push to hit its full-year production target of 25,000 vehicles.

Chief Executive RJ Scaringe is under pressure to prove to Wall Street that it can transition from a young startup to a volume manufacturer of trucks and SUVs. Rivian went public last year in a blockbuster initial offering that briefly pushed its valuation to over $100 billion—larger than that of many well-established car companies.

Rivian has been accelerating production at its plant in Normal, Ill., in a push to hit its full-year production target.

Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/REUTERS

But this year has proved more difficult with Rivian struggling to master the complexities of car manufacturing. It has slowly been increasing monthly production, although supply-chain snarls, particularly on semiconductors, continued to hamper its ramp-up and push costs higher.

Rivian, which began building vehicles for the first time in September 2021, has produced a little more than 15,000 vehicles total through the third quarter of this year, the company spokeswoman said.

The manufacturing challenges have weighed on the auto manufacturer’s stock price, which is down nearly 67% this year. Rivian’s market valuation was $33.7 billion as of Friday’s close of trading.

The Irvine, Calif., company was the largest among a handful of EV startups to draw the attention of Wall Street over the past few years, as investors sought to capitalize on the growth prospects of EVs. But their valuations have fallen sharply as the young companies have endured supply-chain constraints and manufacturing setbacks.

The recall covers all three models that Rivian currently sells: a pickup truck, an SUV and a commercial delivery van.

In August, Rivian learned of a vehicle whose upper control arm separated from the steering knuckle and launched an investigation, according to a notice filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These parts connect a car’s wheel to the vehicle.

In late September, Rivian learned of a number of new instances of the same problem. As of Sept. 28, the company said it discovered six instances of improperly tightened fasteners and decided to recall these vehicles.

Rivian said it sent an email about the recall to all affected customers.

“The safety of our customers will always be our top priority, and we are committed to fixing this issue on any affected vehicles as quickly as possible,” the company said.

In a letter to customers, Rivian’s chief executive urged customers to stop driving their vehicles if they experience issues with steering or suspension problems. “It’s important not to minimize the potential risks involved and why we are volunteering to conduct this recall,” Mr. Scaringe wrote.

This is the company’s third recall since it began vehicle production late last year. In May, Rivian recalled around 500 vehicles after discovering an issue that could cause passenger air bags to fail. In August, the company recalled over 200 vehicles after discovering problems with the installation of seat belt anchors in some vehicles.

Rivian said it expects the financial impact of the recall to be negligible and hopes to perform checks on all its vehicles within 30 days.

Normally, these repairs would be performed by a car maker’s dealer network, but Rivian has opted not to use an independent dealer network to sell or service its vehicles. Rivian said customers can bring their vehicles to service centers or the company will send mobile repair vans to customers.

Other auto makers in recent months have also had troubles with parts that were installed incorrectly. Toyota Motor Corp. in June recalled nearly all of its new battery-powered SUV, the bZ4X, after discovering improperly installed bolts could cause the wheel to detach.

Toyota restarted production of the vehicle Thursday.

Rivian Faces Roadblocks

Corrections & Amplifications
Rivian said it expects the financial impact of the recall to be negligible and hopes to perform checks on all its vehicles within 30 days. An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the company’s name as Rivan in one instance. (Corrected on Oct. 7)

Write to Sean McLain at sean.mclain@wsj.com

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