Rivian R1T electric truck 'way underpriced,' but room to improve -expert

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Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe introduces his company's R1T all-electric pickup truck at Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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June 3 (Reuters) - The Rivian (RIVN.O) R1T, one of the first electric pickup trucks on the market, is "way underpriced," according to a manufacturing expert known for his sometimes blunt assessments of electric vehicles from Tesla (TSLA.O) and others.

The R1T also could use some engineering and production changes to reduce its manufacturing cost, according to Sandy Munro, head of Michigan-based Munro & Associates, which tears down vehicles and advises automakers on how to improve them.

Known for his blunt YouTube assessments, Munro, a former Ford manufacturing engineer, says the R1T has "buckets of cost reduction opportunity" - not unusual for a brand-new vehicle from a first-time manufacturer.

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But the R1T, which starts at $67,500, "should be selling for $100,000 -- it's way underpriced for what it is and what it does," says Munro during a walkaround of the dismantled vehicle at the company's Auburn Hills headquarters.

That is good news for a company that just went public in November and continues to endure teething pains, from delivery snafus to a backlash over poorly timed price increases. read more

Raising the vehicle's price tag could still be a challenge.

Peter Rawlinson, CEO of EV maker Lucid (LCID.O) and a former Tesla engineering executive, told Reuters in March that the R1T probably needs to be priced at $95,000 to be profitable.

Like its chief competitor, the Ford (F.N) F-150 Lightning, Rivian's new pickup features a body-on-frame design, but the R1T's bed and cabin are all one piece, unlike the F-150. The Lightning is priced from $40,000 to more than $100,000.

"It's designed and built quite differently from traditional full-size pickups," says Ben Lindamood, a Munro director. "The build quality still isn't as good as vehicles from more established brands, which is not dissimilar from the early Teslas" torn down in Munro's shop.

Munro likes some of the thoughtful touches on the R1T, including a cleverly hinged tailgate, a power tonneau cover and a large under-bed storage compartment just behind the cabin.

Rivian declined to comment.

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Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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