Rivian recalls nearly every vehicle it has sold

A faulty fastener could leave drivers with wheel in hand and no steering control

Beleaguered electric automaker Rivian is facing another setback: the recall of nearly 80 percent of the vehicles it has produced.

Rivian's R1T trucks, R1S SUVs, and a subset of its electric delivery vehicles (EDVs) – 12,212 vehicles in all – are being recalled due to "a loose steering knuckle fastener [which] could separate, causing a loss of vehicle control," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on its recall notice page for the R1T, where documents for all the recalled vehicles are linked. 

Despite the sweeping nature of the recall, the company claims the problem can be fixed in "minutes".

Rivian has been in business since 2009, but only began delivering vehicles last September. According to the recall notice [PDF] submitted to the NHTSA, Rivian R1T and R1S vehicles manufactured during an unspecified 13-month period would have to be recalled, as would EDVs manufactured between December 10, 2021, and September 27, 2022.

In other words, most Rivian vehicles on the road are probably affected by the recall.

As of last week, when it reported its Q3 2022 numbers, Rivian had built 15,332 cars altogether, according to its own accounting – over 14,000 of those in this year alone. Rivian produced 1,015 vehicles in fy 2021; 2,553 in Q1 2022; 4,401 in in Q2 '22 and 7,363 in its freshly reported Q3. According to its own financial reports, it has delivered 13,198 vehicles to customers to date.

While it's not clear how many of those are on the road already, there are 200,000 Rivian vehicles earmarked for sale still being assembled.

According to the recall notice, Rivian will be notifying affected owners with letters mailed on November 24, 2022. The company is encouraging customers to call the Rivian service line to check if their vehicle is included, and to refer to recall number FSAM 997 when doing so.

Rivian hasn't had a good go of things since its cars began rolling off assembly lines late last year. The company held an IPO in November with stocks going on sale at $78 per share and closing at over $100 on the first trading day. 

Less than a year on, Rivian's stock hovers around $30 a share. Losses keep piling up, with the company shedding $1.7 billion in Q2 2022 and announcing layoffs of 6 percent of its workforce in the same period. 

In response to our questions about the recall, a Rivian spokesperson provided a statement, but said they had no additional information to add.

As of September 28, 2022, Rivian became aware of seven reports potentially related to this issue that had accumulated over the production of Rivian vehicles. It was determined that the cause of the issue was an insufficiently torqued fastener.

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. We will begin immediately contacting affected customers to schedule appointments for inspections and repairs if needed. We will make any necessary adjustments free of charge at one of our service centers. The repair takes a few minutes to complete, and with customer collaboration, we have built out the capacity to complete the needed action in as little as 30 days. To date, we are not aware of any injuries that have resulted from this issue.

Rivian's troubles also include a lawsuit brought by Laura Schwab, the EV maker's former VP of sales and marketing, who has accused the company of having an exclusionary boys' club in its top ranks. 

"Time and time again, I raised concerns regarding vehicle pricing and manufacturing deadlines, but no one listened, even though I have extensive experience launching and pricing vehicles," Schwab, who previously served as president for Aston Martin's US operations, wrote in a Medium post in which she announced the lawsuit late last year.

Schwab claims she was disregarded when she discussed vehicle pricing, which she said would result in a loss, and court documents filed in the case point to another concern: manufacturing. 

"Beginning in spring of 2021, Ms. Schwab started to raise the alarm about concerns she had relating to Rivian's ability to deliver on its promises to investors … the manufacturing process had yet to be refined to a point that the company could confidently assure a consumer of the vehicle's quality, integrity, and safety," claimed Schwab's lawyers in a complaint [PDF].

Rivian, which counts Amazon and Ford among its major investors, is facing additional lawsuits beyond Schwab's claims – it was also sued earlier this year for misleading investors (support for which came from Schwab's claims of underpricing), and a second employee filed suit last month alleging sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at the company's Illinois plant. ®

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