Rivian cuts back and appoints new chief operating officer

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Amazon-backed startup EV Rivian has laid off about 40 employees at its engineering and design center in Plymouth, Michigan, The edge has learned. The cuts, which the company has confirmed to The Verge They were done in all departments and included engineers, recruiters, and others, according to two former employees. The company has also made a number of new executive hires and replaced its first chief operating officer.

Rivian has been on a hiring spree for the past year fueled by $ 3 billion worth of investments from Amazon, Ford, T. Rowe Price and others. The startup currently employs just over 2,000 people overall, which means that layoffs account for about 2 percent of its workforce. Former employees say they believe the cuts were related to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, although Rivian says they were based on performance.

"Occasionally, it is important that any fast-growing, performance-focused company streamlines its organization to improve efficiency," said Amy Mast, director of public relations for Rivian, in a statement. "Rivian remains healthy, growing, and focused on launching our products."

At that point, Mast pointed to a handful of new executives Rivian recently hired. The company has a new chief operating officer at Rod Copes, who spent 19 years at Harley-Davidson and came to Rivian from another motorcycle maker, Royal Enfield. Rivian says Jim Morgan, the startup's original COO, will continue to advise CEO RJ Scaringe, and that he initially came on board as a placeholder until he found a permanent replacement.

(Morgan, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment to confirm that characterization, is not the first C-suite executive to leave Rivian. The company's first chief technology officer, former Apple and Intel executive Mike Bell, he left earlier this year like The edge first reported)

Rivian also hired Matt Horton, the former chief commercial officer of electric bus maker Proterra, to help manage a cargo division that could be working on its own Supercharger-style network. Noe Mejia will help direct Rivian's service operation after holding similar positions at Lucid Motors and Tesla. Georgios Sarakakis, who spent more than six years at Tesla and also worked at Apple and Waymo, is the company's new vice president of reliability engineering.

Two other Tesla veterans have also been hired. Charly Mwangi, a former senior director of engineering for Tesla, is now Rivian's executive vice president of manufacturing engineering, while Cindy Nicola, a former vice president of global recruiting for Tesla, is now vice president of talent acquisition for Rivian.

Whatever the reason for the job cuts, Rivian has felt an impact from the pandemic. The company has delayed the launch of its first two electric vehicles, the R1T van and the R1S SUV, until 2021 and only last week began bringing workers to its Illinois factory. Ford and Lincoln also canceled a luxury SUV that was supposed to be built with Rivian's EV technology.

Update June 2, 8:08 PM ET: Rivian refers to its location in Plymouth, Michigan, as its "engineering and design center," not as its headquarters, as previously reported.