Is R.J. Scaringe the Elon Musk of Illinois?
Robert Scaringe isn’t the first entrepreneur to start a company straight out of school. What’s unusual is the scale of his ambition. He’s running a capital-devouring car company. Scaringe, known as R.J., is 35 and CEO of Rivian Automotive. It paid $16 million for a mothballed downstate car factory to produce battery-powered electric vehicles—a pickup truck first and then an SUV.
Illinois taxpayers are involved, too. Rivian is promised more than $50 million in subsidies, mostly income tax credits or property tax waivers tied to investment and job creation at the plant in Normal, the central Illinois town better known for Illinois State University.
Like Tesla’s Elon Musk, Scaringe is counting on full-scale disruption of the automotive industry. Just 0.6 percent of the 17.2 million light vehicles sold in the U.S. last year were battery-electric, neither gasoline-fueled nor plug-in hybrids. Moody’s Investors Service forecasts pure battery power will account for 7 to 8 percent of global automotive sales by the mid-2020s and nearly 20 percent by the end of that decade.