Why the stock debut of electric automaker Rivian is such a big deal Rivian, which has just started deliveries of its battery-powered pickup truck, surged in its first day of trading after completing one of the biggest IPOs in U.S. history.

The electric automaker Rivian soared in its stock debut. Why there's so much buzz

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There was a bright-blue pickup truck parked in front of the Nasdaq building in New York today, and it was built by the electric automaker Rivian, which soared in its public debut.

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CHANG: Now, Rivian was the first company to sell an electric pickup. And as NPR's Camila Domonoske reports, that eye-catching truck drove one of the biggest IPOs in U.S. history.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Rivian aimed high with a splashy IPO. And this company that many people haven't heard of, which has only made a few hundred trucks, is now worth more than Ford or General Motors. That's because all eyes are on electric vehicles right now. Automakers are embracing them. Governments are promoting them. At the COP26 climate talks, some leaders are calling for all new cars to be zero-emission by 2040. Meanwhile, Tesla is the world's most valuable carmaker at a trillion dollars.

Stephanie Brinley is an analyst with IHS Markit. She says all this enthusiasm for electric vehicles creates an opening.

STEPHANIE BRINLEY: There's a lot of opportunity. And, of course, the meteoric rise of Tesla has whetted the appetite for who can do it again.

DOMONOSKE: Rivian has a two-track plan for its own meteoric rise. First, there's that pickup truck and eventually an SUV. They're marketed toward outdoorsy types, promising off-road adventures, but they're also upscale with luxurious interiors. Think crunchy meets comfort. Like, the pickup has an optional pull-out kitchen with an induction stove for fancy campsite cooking. Second, Rivian is selling a practical delivery van, with Amazon committed to buy 100,000 of them. Amazon is also investing in Rivian, as is ford. That's a big boost. And compared to some other hyped startups, Brinley says...

BRINLEY: I think that Rivian, for the most part, has kind of been a little bit more nose to the grindstone and doing the work and getting it done.

DOMONOSKE: Getting it done, as in, Rivian has actually delivered a few vehicles. That's a rare achievement. Of a slew of new auto startups, only Rivian and the luxury carmaker Lucid have gotten that far.

Asad Hussain is a mobility analyst at Pitchbook. He says producing that first vehicle is a huge milestone, but...

ASAD HUSSAIN: Let's not put the cart before the horse. I think the real challenge is going to be ramping up that manufacturing capacity and going up to delivering thousands and thousands of vehicles and actually being able to fulfill demand.

DOMONOSKE: Still, Hussain thinks Rivian is well positioned to pull it off, and this splashy IPO bringing in billions of dollars should help.

Camila Domonoske, NPR News.

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