Rivian Owner Waits 3 Years for R1S, Bricks it in a Snow Bank 2 Days Later

Yellow Rivian RS1 SUV fording a creak with a thick pine forest in the background.
Yellow Rivian RS1 SUV fording a creak with a thick pine forest in the background.

Yellow Rivian RS1 behaving very rugged in the Catskills Mountains in central New York.

Most Rivian owners are head over heels for their vehicles (at least according to a JD Power’s EV owners satisfaction poll), but one owner has decided maybe being on the cutting edge isn’t for him after his long-awaited Rivian R1S died after just two days of ownership and one snow storm.

Chase Merrill is a 24-year-old living in the snowy Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. He figured the $85,626 SUV would make a perfect replacement for his 2015 Ford Edge, even if he was initially skeptical of going all-electric. He waited three years to take possession of the SUV. At first, he told Insider, he loved his new R1S, but that love affair was short lived:


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Merrill drove his R1S to his family’s shared property in the mountains. He wanted to put his rugged electric SUV to the test, so he drove it on the unplowed, snow-covered road into the property.

At first, the R1S sliced through the snow. Then, a large snowdrift stymied the car, he said.

“I hit about 2 ½-feet of snow and it just stopped right there,” Merrill told Insider. “I had seen all the Rivian marketing campaigns with the cars just eating through the snow so it was kind of like, man this is disappointing.”

Merrill said that he’s dislodged cars from snowbanks before, and enlisted another vehicle to help pull him out. While he was sitting in the driver’s seat, unbuckled, rocking the R1S out of the snowbank, he said that he accidentally triggered a safety feature that got the car stuck between the park and drive gears.

Here’s some advice from an old salt in the car biz to a young-ish driver: Just because a car does something in a commercial, does not mean you should attempt it in real life. It’s why car commercials often come with a disclaimer along the lines of “Do Not Attempt: Professional driver on a closed course” at the bottom of the screen.

Still, I’m not sure how many of us would anticipate that rocking a stuck car with no seatbelt on would trigger a safety feature that renders the car un-drivable. Merrill ended up spending $2,100 to get his SUV towed off the unplowed road to a Rivian service center hundreds of miles away. And in the end, it wasn’t really the breakdown of the vehicle that soured Merrill on the brand, but his experience trying to get his vehicle serviced. From Insider:

Merrill said he later learned that a simple reset may have resolved the issue that bricked his car, without requiring a service visit. But that solution did not come up in his initial call with Rivian’s customer service, he said.

A Rivian representative later apologized to Merrill and offered to pay for the repairs, but the company refused to pay the $2,100 transportation fee, he said. After Insider called Rivian this week to ask about Merrill’s experience, a Rivian representative called Merrill offered to cover the $2,100 bill.

The final straw for Merrill happened, he said, when the car was returned to him and a critical error message showed on his dash saying that the Rivian needed to go back to the service center.

“The attitude the whole time from customer service was that a Rivian owner should be able to handle this no problem,” Merrill said. “They just think this should be nothing for me and it’s not nothing.”

Rivian vowed to Insider to learn from these missteps and work on the issues going forward. The company has a lot of work to do to connivence early adopter to stick with Rivian, after it has delayed delivery of vehicles time and time again. Merrill, for his part, is still rooting for Rivian, but plans to go back to a gas-powered vehicle in the very near future.

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