If you’ve never heard of Rivian Automotive, consider yourself in good company. Most car fans, even the diehard among us, would be hard-pressed to answer the question, “What automaker, based in Rockledge, Florida, aims to produce fuel-efficient and affordable sports cars by 2013?”

The answer is Rivian Automotive, which was originally founded as Avera Motors until Hyundai filed suit over confusion between its Azera model and the Avera name. Avera Motors became Rivian Automotive in late 2010.

Now comes word that the tiny startup automaker, which employs a staff of 20, has landed a big fish in the automotive design world. Peter Stevens, who helped design the McLaren F1, the Jaguar XJR-15 and the Isuzu-engined Lotus Elan M100 of the early 1990s, has been hired by Rivian Automotive as its director of design.

Based on Florida’s Space Coast, Rivian Automotive is a small company with ambitious plans. Its first car, due in 2013, will be a mid-engine, rear drive sports car with a two-plus-two seating configuration. The company isn’t releasing images or performance data just yet, but it claims the car will achieve fuel economy better than 60 miles per gallon and sell for less than $30,000.

It would be easy to dismiss Rivian as just another small company with big ideas, but it has several things in its favor. CEO R.J. Scaringe is a graduate of MIT’s Sloan Automotive Laboratory, so chances are good that there’s solid engineering behind Rivian’s designs. Location, just as in real estate, is critical to a business’ success, and we’d have a hard time naming a larger pool of unemployed, experienced engineers available for hire than Florida’s Space Coast.

Could this be the start of a new and viable domestic automaker, with an eye on both performance and the environment? We’ll be sure to let you know.