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Rivian to cut 3rd shift for R1 production at Normal plant next month

 Rivian Automotive added thousands of workers at its electric vehicle plant in Normal over the last year.
Ryan Denham
Rivian Automotive added thousands of workers at its electric vehicle plant in Normal over the last year.

The electric automaker Rivian will eliminate one of its three shifts in Normal next month, saying it can meet this year’s modest production goals with only two shifts because the manufacturing plant is getting more efficient.

Rivian employs around 8,000 people in Normal – the bulk of them hourly manufacturing workers. A Rivian spokesperson told WGLT on Tuesday that “all hourly employees will be offered a job on one of the two available shifts as we will increase capacity per shift.” 

It’s unclear if any of those hourly workers will see their total weekly hours change as a result. The hourly jobs will still be full-time roles. The Rivian spokesperson said they “gave hourly employees the opportunity to provide feedback regarding shift patterns and to submit their own shift preference. We are assigning shifts based on tenure, preference and operational needs.” 

Automakers routinely run multiple shifts inside their plants to create more hours of the day when product can be made. Rivian added a second shift in fall 2022, and the third shift in June 2023. 

Rivian plans to make around 57,000 vehicles in Normal this year – the same as in 2023. High interest rates have cut in demand for EVs, including at Rivian, and founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said increasing demand is one of their key focus areas for the year. There’s also a broader skepticism about how quickly American transportation will electrify that’s led more established automakers to scale back or slow their EV investments. 

“With our continued improvements in efficiency, we can meet that (57,000) goal on two shifts,” the Rivian spokesperson said Tuesday. 

The change back to two shifts (day and night) will begin April 28, when the plant returns from an April shutdown. That will allow for the integration of new engineering design changes to R1 (pickups and SUVs) including significant changes to supplier and component parts, lowering how much it costs to build each EV. They’ll also use the shutdown to increase overall production capacity in Normal, by around 30%. 

The shift-change news comes as Rivian prepares to unveil the design of its R2 vehicle on Thursday. The R2 will be a cheaper, smaller SUV – reportedly in the $40,000-$60,000 range – and will be Rivian’s first vehicle sold globally. 

Rivian is McLean County’s second-largest employer, behind only State Farm.
Copyright 2024 WGLT.

Ryan Denham started his career as a copy editor and later business and city government reporter at The Pantagraph in 2006. He later worked for WJBC radio in Bloomington. He now works in website development for Illinois State University and is a freelance reporter for WGLT.
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