Rivian Just Told Investors What They’ve Been Waiting For. Is It Time to Buy?

Rivian Automotive (RIVN) had a brutal first half of the year: The stock lost 75% of its value in just six months. Rivian's move to hike vehicle prices hit a nerve with customers; its full-year production outlook announced in March fell sharply short of analysts' estimates; and a large investor dumped shares of the electric vehicle (EV) start-up.

With key inputs like semiconductor chips still in short supply and prices of raw materials surging, many even started wondering whether Rivian would be able to produce 25,000 vehicles this year like it planned to.

The company may have just answered the question every investor has in mind.

Rivian's production and deliveries are on the rise

Rivian's second-quarter earnings aren't due until August, but an important announcement made today was enough to lift investor sentiment.

The automaker produced 4,401 vehicles and delivered 4,467 vehicles in the quarter ended June 30. Here's why these two numbers are so important.

Rivian produced 2,553 vehicles but delivered only 1,227 vehicles in its first quarter. That gap perplexed investors, and while the company's numbers improved over the fourth quarter, the pace of growth was not what investors expected.

Rivian's latest numbers for Q2, therefore, address two of investors' biggest concerns.

First, the company has been able to ramp up production, which is imperative for it to meet its full-year target. Second, its deliveries are picking up the slack and in fact almost quadrupled in Q2, which is important to retain customer faith and attract new reservations.

As of June 6, when Rivian held its first annual shareholder meeting since going public last year, the EV maker had a strong backlog comprising more than 90,000 units between its R1T pickup and R1S SUV, and 100,000 orders for its commercial delivery van, the EDV, from e-commerce giant Amazon.

Above all, Rivian just said it is now confident it will manufacture 25,000 vehicles this year across all its models.

Is it finally time to buy Rivian stock?

I recently explained how Rivian's biggest problem right now is supply, and not demand.

Rivian, in fact, has a solid competitive advantage as its R1T pickup trucks are already out on the roads even before Tesla could launch its Cybertruck. General Motors has more than 75,000 orders from its GMC Hummer EV, but production is at a snail's pace. So aside from Ford‘s all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck, which is in huge demand and is also most competitively priced, there's no significant competitor in sight yet for Rivian. The F-150 Lightning, though, has greater appeal as a commercial truck, unlike R1T's adventure branding.

So having already won the attention of EV enthusiasts, all Rivian has to do now is to crank out as many trucks from its factories as it can to maintain a lead over emerging competitors. Rivian simply cannot prioritize anything else right now. From that standpoint, Rivian's second-quarter production and delivery numbers are certainly encouraging.

Yet the toughest battle for Rivian is just beginning, as it will have to produce at twice its Q2 rate in the remaining two quarters of 2022 to meet its full-year goal. It can do that, but at what cost?

Although its factory in Normal, Illinois, is equipped to produce 150,000 units a year, Rivian itself recently admitted that scaling up production is a tall task, as “each unit represents a complicated symphony of component supply.”

Given the persistent supply and cost constraints, it's therefore highly likely that Rivian is burning through a lot of cash to produce more vehicles, and it'll take a lot for the company to break even.

Rivian has ambitious plans to start a second manufacturing facility in Georgia and launch its R2 mid-size SUV by 2025, and it had $17 billion in cash as of March 31 to do it. Instead of betting on that, I'd rather focus on its near-term production rate, costs, and cash flows before putting my money on a stock with a market cap of more than $26 billion. One quarter of strong production and deliveries from a company with multiple missteps so far, unfortunately, doesn't give me that confidence yet.

Originally published on Fool.com

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Neha Chamaria has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon and Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.