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LA 2018: Rivian’s VP of design on their new SUV

28 November 2018 | by Chris Maillard

We didn’t manage to get anywhere near the new Rivian SUV at the time of its LA Show launch this morning; it was on a high stage guarded by ferociously bearded bouncers.  However, we managed to find a quieter moment a few hours later and snagged Rivian VP of Design Jeff Hammoud, who gave us a tour of the R1S’s interior (if you want more details of their R1T truck, go here).


It’s a bright, airy-feeling space, with light grey fabrics and light wood giving it a premium, airy feel not unlike the current, much-admired Volvo aesthetic. There are also, of course, some very large displays – a traditional dash screen and another, much bigger, central one.


However, the arrangement of the interior is not necessarily the interesting part. As Jeff told us, the materials themselves have been the subject of much thought. “We really wanted to make this premium, but highly usable,” he said. “The floormats are made of a fabric that’s often used for outdoor furnishings, mats and so on. And the flooring is a superfabric that is used by adventure clothing manufacturers.


“The whole idea is that you can use the vehicle in the outdoors, get it dirty, muddy, sandy, whatever and it'll clean up perfectly. The door inserts zip out for cleaning – or you can replace them with pouches – and every surface is treated to repel dirt, water and stains.”


This is a key part of the Rivian aesthetic – the idea that their vehicles are designed to be used in extreme conditions, not just as a luxury item. “We were looking at other premium vehicles,“ explained Jeff, “and there are plenty of companies who have a particular aesthetic – Audi, Mercedes, BMW, for instance – which is like an Armani suit. Nice, but you wouldn't want to get it dirty. We see ourselves as more like [outdoor clothing brand] Patagonia. Their stuff is well made and not cheap, but it's actually made to be used outdoors, not just as fashion. In terms of car companies, Jeep have that outdoors image, but they're not really very premium; Range Rover have gone in a much more luxury direction lately, but if the new Defender returns to its roots in off-road capability they’ll be somewhere close to that.”


There are some neat detail touches inside the SUV – there’s a torch hidden in the driver’s door shut, and the rear seat headrests have a fold-out hook which also houses USB charging sockets, to name two.


Some thought has obviously gone into that interior and it looks as though it could go into production at any moment; it’s definitely more polished and realistic than many slightly wobbly concept cars.


So, another new brand has popped up and it seems Rivian is one with a very distinctive market positioning and a well thought-through philosophy. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how they move on from this very promising-looking start.

LA 2018