Rivian Chief Engineer Leaves, Goes Back to McLaren

Rivian R1T and Charles Sanderson 11 photos
Photo: Rivian / autoevolution edit
Charles Sanderson Confirmed that He's Now Working at McLarenRivian R1T and R1SRivian R1T and R1SRivian R1SRivian R1TRivian R1TRivian R1TRivian R1T and R1S InteriorRivian Skateboard PlatformRivian Skateboard Platform
After almost five years at Rivian, Charles Sanderson decided it was enough and left the Chief Engineer position held at the American EV maker. The executive returned to McLaren, where he currently acts as the company’s Chief Technical Officer (CTO).
Charles Sanderson is one of the reasons why many people claimed Rivian’s R1-series vehicles will handle like supercars. One thing that Sanderson championed during his tenure at the American EV maker is the suspension system which replaced the mechanical anti-roll bar with an electro-hydraulic roll control system. Anti-roll (or anti-sway) bars are used to make the car feel more leveled during sharp turns. But Rivian’s sophisticated system allowed for more body control on-road and off-road without needing this part.

So, the R1T was touted by many as handling like a McLaren 720S even though it weighs almost 7,000 lb (3,175 kg). That is an impressive feat for a pickup truck, especially for one that is completely electric and must deal with a heavy battery pack. Managing the weight shift in tight scenarios is paramount for vehicles that are presented as being the next best thing, so the implementation of the Tenneco hydraulic damper at Rivian was a success for both the automaker and Sanderson as a professional.

The man has also been heard on multiple occasions talking fondly of the R1T and R1S. He liked Rivian’s CEO's vision of making a pickup truck that will rival even the best of what legacy automakers have currently on sale. But he went even further than that by setting the ambition to build a vehicle that can beat all the other benchmarks set by other similar units (or not!) as a top priority. Given Rivian’s current reputation and demand, one could argue that this has happened.

Arguably, talking nicely and working hard may not be something unexpected for a top-level employee, but Sanderson was also one of the few automotive executives who was always ready to explain to anyone why Rivian’s products were better than the competition. For example, he was also involved in the battery pack design and was an advocate for moving away from Tesla’s cell layout.

Now, Charles Sanderson chose to part ways with the Irvine-based EV maker and returned to McLaren, as confirmed on LinkedIn by himself and by the well-known supercar manufacturer. That’s not a very good sign for the young American marque, especially as the need for over-the-air (OTA) software updates is becoming increasingly important. As Chief Engineer, Sanderson was involved in this sector too. Now, Rivian might have to find someone else who is capable to take on this important part of keeping customers happy about their zero-tailpipe emission and smart vehicles.

Rivian R1T and R1S Interior
Photo: Rivian Automotive LLC
The EV maker also lost its Chief Regulatory Counsel last week, which signals a possible brain drain that might cause a couple of serious issues for the promising brand. But until we get to know more, let's just hope that RJ Scaringe has a plan that will keep Rivian afloat and won't worry investors about this year's output. Besides that, Charles Sanderson's shoes might be just a tad bit too big to fill.

The Australian man spent seven years within the British manufacturer’s ranks and left the Head of Software Development position at McLaren to start work as Vice President at Rivian. After four years and 10 months of being tied to the U.S., Sanderson is back at McLaren, where he will act as the company’s Chief Technical Officer. That's a serious promotion!

Besides snatching Rivian’s Chief Engineer, the British marque got a new Chief Procurement Officer as well. Jorg Laser will change how purchasing, logistics, and the evaluation of supplier quality is being done after working for well-known brands like General Motors, MAN Trucks, and Autoliv.

Finally, McLaren also confirmed that Ferrari’s former Vehicle Line Director Emmanuele Raveglia is joining the company as Vehicle Line Executive Director. Raveglia oversaw the manufacturing of the Purosangue, 488 Pista, F8 Tributo, and others at the Italian brand.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of three such capable and experienced industry professionals. All three individuals bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience which will be invaluable in the successful delivery of our Future of Performance strategy,” said McLaren CEO Michael Leiters.
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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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