Executives from McLaren and Nike Join Rivian's Growing Team
Mark Vinnels and Rob Williams bring impressive credentials to Rivian.
Rivian, the stealthy, Michigan-based electric vehicle (EV) startup, is taking large steps forward in their new vehicle development program. The company recently added two new executives, Mark Vinnels and Rob Williams.
Mark Vinnels joined Rivian in November as Executive Director of Engineering and Programs, and oversees the development of Rivian’s vehicle platform. Vinnels was formerly the Executive Director of Product Development and Programme Director at McLaren Automotive. Vinnels joined McLaren in 2004 to lead the development of McLaren’s first road car since the infamous F1. Before joining McLaren, Vinnels was head of Lotus’s new vehicle programs. While at Lotus, he oversaw the Elise, Exige, and Europa new vehicle lines. If that wasn’t enough, Vinnels is also credited for his instrumental role in the development of GM’s Family 1 engine program, one of GM’s most widely used engines.
Mark Vinnels, Executive Director of Engineering & Programs at Rivian Automotive
While Rivian hasn’t revealed many details about the development of its all-electric vehicle platform, Vinnels’ impressive level of experience in leading and growing engineering divisions should help accelerate the company’s plans. Rivian’s CEO RJ Scaringe couldn’t comment directly on the impact of Vinnels’ role but highlighted his impressive experience. While at McLaren, Vinnels helped the company grow its engineering division from roughly 50 engineers to 550 and significantly increased its vehicle lineup.
Rivian's team also includes another former McLaren executive, Anthony Sheriff, who joined Rivian's Board of Directors in 2016. Sheriff was the Managing Director of McLaren Automotive from 2003-2013, a period in which McLaren created a road car division in addition to the company's rich history in the automotive racing arena. Sheriff was an executive at Fiat before his tenure at McLaren and also sits on the Board of Directors for electric supercar manufacturer Rimac.
Also joining Rivian is Rob Williams as Chief Creative Officer. Williams carries experience from both the automotive industry and the footwear industry. He was most recently a Senior Design Director of Footwear at Nike and spent four-and-a-half years at Chrysler. During his time as a product designer at Chrysler, he led several designs of Chrysler SUVs and Dodge Trucks.
Williams joins Jeff Hammoud, Director of Vehicle Design. Hammoud has extensive experience at Fiat-Chrysler and left the company as Chief of Design of the Jeep Brand. Hammoud joined Rivian in May 2017, followed by Williams in June.
Based on a combination of the design team's backgrounds and patents released by Rivian last summer, it appears that Rivian's first vehicle could be some sort of SUV. An in-depth analysis of Rivian's design team members' LinkedIn profiles reveals that nearly half of the team has experience with Fiat Chrysler Automotive (Formerly Chrysler), with many specializing in SUV/Truck designs.
Rivian currently has 225 employees, up from nearly 115 at the start of the year. Other notable additions to Rivian's team include 15 former Faraday Future employees. Faraday Future is nearly defunct after it continued to miss its wildly ambitious goals and saw its main financier's global expansion fall apart. Most of the team from Faraday is working on Rivian's autonomous driving technology or other highly technical roles.
The timeline for Rivian's massive 2.6 million-square-foot manufacturing facility on the west side of Normal is still unknown. Rivian purchased the factory in January 2017 for $16 million, including all of the factory’s equipment.
Due to the level of mystery surrounding Rivian's plans and product line, local residents and officials have begun comparing it to the likes of “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.” For those wondering if Rivian holds a golden ticket to the future, only time will tell.
Update: There was a correction to reflect the Rivian's current employee count, which isn't reflected on LinkedIn currently. Rivian revealed that they paid $16M for the factory and all of its contents in January 2018.