Rivian has opted to follow in Tesla’s footsteps with their direct sales model, and they continue to spearhead more innovative ways to create brand awareness in their own unique ways. I recently experienced a couple First Mile events, both in northern and Southern California, a fantastic way to develop hype and exploration surrounding the Rivian lifestyle. The hub, recently opened in Venice, CA, is the latest Rivian experience to hit the public eye.
Internally known as hub #1, Venice hosts the first of what will hopefully be many hubs around the country, and potentially the world if this concept proves beneficial. The concept stems from highlighting the local artisan spirit and the lifestyle surrounding a Rivian vehicle. Though there is typically at least one R1T on-site for people to sit in and explore, they chose not to operate test drives or have anything remotely similar to a showroom or dealer mindset.
In the case of Venice, the hub was built on the site of Ray Bradbury’s home during the 1940s, where he wrote the Martian Chronicles that would release the following decade. He was most likely inspired by the old power station bordering the property, which is also now part of the hub. Rivian decided to attempt to keep existing architecture and aesthetic feel to best fit in with the existing surroundings. Thus, the property feels true to Southern California, and especially true to the feel of Venice. Even the outside wall features a large tapestry, made of old sails, showing the layout of the streets in Venice.
What’s Inside…and Out?
The hub consists of a variety of sections to explore. The entrance is somewhat of a courtyard, often occupied by a Rivian vehicle, front and center. The building on the left was the location of Bradbury’s home, while the building on the right was the original power substation.
Immediately to the right of the entrance is a small outdoor area with seating and ample plants. Moving to the left of the entrance takes you to a larger outdoor courtyard with even more seating, the Venetian sail mural, a game of corn hole, and of course, more plants.
The left building contained what is effectively a library, hosting hundreds of books people can read and even trade, leaving a book for a book. There is also seating and excellent WiFi throughout. And recently, they included an addition of a small diorama of a roughly 1:18 scale R1T, complete with miniature camping kitchen and even a full bed-style camper. This room is typically the most quiet to work in, approaching library ambiance. There are even signs on the table noting a “Zoom free zone” highlighting the emphasis on serenity within this space.
Through the other door of the book section is an area with Rivian merchandise for sale, a small-scale storefront also featuring local artist works such as pottery. There are also a number of various items on shelves alongside the merchandise, adding to the visuals and artistic feel. It reminds me of an art museum in part, with certain things purchasable on-site.
Heading back into the main courtyard, the back corner hosts a number of small raised garden plots with a large variety of plants. There are also some outdoor seating options with umbrellas, and a small coffee cart open daily. Another R1T is often stationed in this area, as it was both times I went to the hub. It featured the Yakima tent on the bed and was open to experiencing the interior just like the truck up front. There are also two charging stations for charging the trucks, most likely overnight between days of use.
Lastly, within the old substation, you will see more designer artifacts just like what we saw at the First Mile events. Each exterior and interior color is laid out on counter-space with all of the trinkets Rivian used to inspire the final color sample. In the middle of this room is a large table with ample seating for more work-space, but also the occasional community event.
The hub showcases a community-first mindset. From the community garden plots to the hosted events inside the substation area, Rivian wanted to invest in the local community and set it as the main intent rather than attempt a showroom or dealer-style location. Immediately upon entering the hub, we were met with a sandwich board showing upcoming events, including book reading, craft time for kids, and organic gardening.
The afore-mentioned art for sale in the gear-shop is also an aspect of supporting local community. Beyond that, even the tile in the bathroom was done by another local artisan, with the other wall in the bathroom an art composite of pages from Fahrenheit 451, another book from Ray Bradbury.
The substation is where many of the events are held, with the large table supporting space for many kids to simultaneously work on arts and crafts, many of which are displayed along the wall. Rivian again reiterates that this hub is not restricted to reservation holders or customers, but rather anyone in the community. Rivian views everyone as potential reservation holders or even distant enthusiasts. They plan to continue planning other events, potentially even a watch party for the Long Way Up, and we hope to return to experience some of these events in the future.
Oh, and the Trucks
Rivian will typically feature two trucks displayed, though they mentioned one or both may occasionally be out for other events. Especially out in full splendor in the main courtyard, the trucks certainly help draw curiosity from the outside. But the idea behind the hub is a place for people to spend time, meet with friends, or even get some work done with a cup of local coffee.
We spent some time with the trucks while on site. Though we had seen them extensively at the First Mile event, we found some time with a truck to ourselves, playing with the Rivian removable Bluetooth speaker. The speaker itself exceeded expectations and even featured a lantern light on the bottom. It simply charges when you insert it back into its cubby below the center console. The flashlight in the door also features excellent build quality, along with an Easter egg fact. The main battery of the truck is built of 7,776 individual cells. To round it out, they used the 7,777th cell in the flashlight itself.
We also got to see the Rivian take on a sentry mode, initially made famous by Tesla. Rivian’s approach is somewhat kid-friendly, using “Gear Guard”, a friendly-looking Sasquatch type creature looking around the screen with a flashlight.
A Case for More
Rivian is ultimately testing the hub concept with their Venice location, to see how well it works, how it is received, and what the business case will be to create more. They do hope it succeeds, and they do have additional hubs planned around the country and eventually the world. It is a unique and refreshing concept of the way an automotive manufacturer interacts with the world around it. Rivian knows the potential customer, and the concentric circle beyond that in the form of the world audience. People are intrigued as Rivian ramps up production in the coming year. We hope to spend ample time with one soon, truly putting it through our rigorous testing and seeing just how much it stands up to the hype.