Rivian hires new COO, adds Tesla vets to roster

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As Rivian edges closer to completing its manufacturing plant in Illinois and launching three electric vehicles next year, the company has added senior executives — including a new COO — to fill new roles and replace people who have departed.

The company, whose engineering and design center is in suburban Detroit, has recruited executives from the motorcycle industry, Tesla, Lucid and elsewhere since March.

Rod Copes replaces Jim Morgan as COO. Copes, a motorcycle industry veteran, most recently worked for Indian-owned motorcycle manufacturer Royal Enfield. As president of the company’s U.S. arm, Copes built the team that returned the former British-made motorcycle to the U.S. after a long absence. Copes also put in 19 years at Harley-Davidson, where he was senior vice president of global sales and customer service.

The Verge website reported that Morgan will remain as an adviser and was only in the COO position as a placeholder until the job was filled permanently.

Matt Horton fills a new position as Rivian’s executive vice president of energy and charging solutions. The automaker’s EVs likely will rely heavily on public charging stations, not a dedicated network similar to what Tesla has built.

Perhaps one of Horton’s biggest early tasks will be to ensure that Rivian’s software enables drivers of its pickup and SUV models to use any brand of public charging station. EV manufacturers such as Jaguar have found that some brands won’t charge their vehicles. Usually, such maladies can be fixed by reworking software so that the vehicle and the charging station can communicate with each other.

Prior to joining Rivian, Horton was chief commercial officer at Proterra, a California maker of electric buses.

Rivian has revealed little about how its service and parts operations will work. With no traditional franchised dealer network, the company will have to create some convenient way for customers to get repair parts for accident-damaged vehicles and for repairs that can’t be made over the air.

Noe Mejia, a Tesla veteran who most recently was at Lucid Motors, another EV startup, has been appointed senior director of service operations. Mejia was Tesla’s director of service before he left for Lucid. There, he lead the team that put together the company’s strategy for service engineering, parts procurement and logistics, collision repair, mobile service teams and technical training.

With Rivian’s Normal, Ill., plant set to produce the R1T electric pickup, the R1S electric SUV and a custom-designed electric delivery van for Amazon in less than a year, the company has hired Charly Mwangi for the new position of executive vice president of manufacturing.

After stints in engineering at Toyota and Nissan, Mwangi joined Tesla in 2012. According to his LinkedIn profile, he held a number of key senior manufacturing leadership jobs at Tesla. Mwangi was responsible for Tesla’s body design engineering, tool and die engineering, stamping manufacturing engineering and paint, plastic and body engineering.

Other new hires are Georgios Sarakakis, an Apple, Waymo and Tesla veteran who fills the new role of vice president of reliability engineering, and Beth Harrington, director of strategic programs. Harrington’s automotive experience includes positions at Volvo and Tesla.

“From time to time, it’s important for any performance-focused and fast-growing company to streamline its organization to improve effectiveness,” Amy Mast, Rivian’s public relations director, told The Verge. “Rivian remains healthy, growing and focused on the launch of our products.”

Some of Rivian’s engineering and design staff have started returning to work at the company’s facility in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth, Mich. During the COVID-19 shutdown, product development continued as most engineers worked from home. But the pandemic still led Rivian to push back its planned launch of the R1T and R1S to 2021. The company had hoped to deliver its first customer vehicles late this year.

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Saurabh Shukla

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