• Ford takes $500 million stake in Rivian
  • Joins Amazon as investor
  • Will fast-track Ford’s ability to electrify its product range
  • Components, technology transfer also on the table

 

In a blockbuster announcement, Ford said it will be taking a $500 million stake in electric vehicle startup Rivian, which is planning to launch its R1T pickup and R1S sport-utility EVs next year. This most recent cash infusion follows a $700 million deal earlier this year of which Amazon took part.

General Motors was said to be in negotiations with Rivian, but according to reports, dropped from possible involvement when Rivian wouldn’t agree to an exclusive deal. Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe said he wants to supply everything from components up through finished vehicles to a variety of customers including other manufacturers.

In a Bloomberg interview earlier this year, Scaringe said, “We can leverage our skateboard technology (the battery pack and motors beneath its R1T and R1S models) or sell pieces of it such as the battery pack.” Both the R1T and R1S models will be offered with batteries ranging in capacity from 105 to 180 kW, the latter of which promises a range of 400 miles.

Six models promised by 2025

During last week’s press days at the New York Auto Show, Scaringe promised that Rivian would be producing as many as six different models of varying sizes by 2025 at its Normal, Ill., facility, a factory that was the former site of Chrysler-Mitsubishi joint production.  He said that portfolio would be primarily trucks and SUVs, models that dominate the current sales mix and that there are no plans for the company to build a sedan.

Rivian has assembled a management team consisting of industry veterans who have worked for McLaren, Hummer and Ford. Much of the vehicle’s development has been done with little fanfare. The company unveiled the RT1 pickups and RS1 SUV last fall at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Ford investment dovetails its EV plans

The investment by Ford neatly dovetails the company’s call for electrification of a wide range of its vehicle portfolio, including crossovers and its iconic F-150 pickup. This past January, Jim Farley, president of Ford’s global markets, said at a Deutsche Bank Global Automotive Conference in Las Vegas, that it planned to do an electric version of the F-150.

By taking a stake in Rivian and using it as an outside supplier for components or even completed vehicles, Ford will be able to speed up development of a beefed-up EV portfolio. Ford spokespersons said any products to come out of Rivian tie-up would be in addition to existing Ford programs to electrify the F-150 as well as the imminent Mustang-inspired all-electric crossover. The investment could also open the door to Rivian’s production capacity, which would be a low risk way to expand Ford’s EV output without having to retool its existing plants.

Possible VW connection

Adding further intrigue to the Ford announcement is that automaker’s recent tie-up with Volkswagen to pursue EV technology. How the Rivian investment will figure into this dynamic is left to be seen. On the flip side, while Rivian brings its technology and plant capacity to the deal, it can also benefit from the sales, marketing and distribution expertise of a major manufacturer like Ford.

For now, on the retail level, Rivian is taking $1,000 deposits (it says it has tens of thousands of orders) for the R1T, which will be priced from $69,000 and the R1S, which will start at $72,500. The company promises that the first units could be delivered as early as the end of 2020. 

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