Companies that rise with the help of political subsidies can also fall by them. Behold how electric vehicle manufacturer
high-flying stock is crashing to earth.
Rivian shares fell another 20.88% on Monday to $22.78 after its stock lockup period for early investors expired. The EV startup went public in November with a $66.5 billion valuation and shares at $78. Its stock price soon surged to $172 amid investor euphoria fed by free credit and expectations that Congress would sweeten electric vehicle subsidies.
At one point Rivian commanded a $153 billion market value—more than every auto maker in the world besides
—despite having delivered a mere 156 vehicles before its IPO. But building a new auto maker from scratch isn’t easy. Tesla missed production forecasts early on and was only making 20,000 or so cars annually five years after releasing its first model.
Rivian’s stock began to slide as it ran into manufacturing problems, and investor hopes that Democrats would pass Build Back Better faded. In March, Rivian slashed its production guidance this year by half to 25,000 vehicles and raised the price of its pickup truck by $12,000 to $79,500, citing increased costs across its supply chain.
Prices of lithium and nickel for batteries have soared as government mandates have fueled an EV manufacturing boom. Traditional auto makers like GM and
are electrifying their pickup models, which they hope will be more popular than electric sedans. But bigger EVs require bigger batteries, which require more lithium and nickel.
Higher costs may curb consumer demand. Such risks didn’t faze investors when credit was essentially free and more generous subsidies were in the offing. But the Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening is causing investors to reassess valuations. Rivian and other EV startups are among the casualties.
Many great companies survive rough markets, and Rivian may ride this one out and prosper. But its stock rise and fall is a warning about too much money chasing too little profit too soon.
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Appeared in the May 10, 2022, print edition.