Ford invests $500 million in Rivian, an electric truck startup in Michigan

By Phoebe Wall Howard - Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co., maker of the best-selling F-Series pickup trucks, announced early Wednesday that it’s investing $500 million in Rivian, the Michigan-based electric truck startup company.

This is viewed by analysts as a coup since General Motors had expressed interest in an exclusive relationship and was rebuffed, according to Bloomberg. Rivian is considered a darling of the tech and automotive industries as vehicle manufacturers shift toward electrification.

The company, which is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich., has the backing of Amazon, the Seattle-based multinational e-commerce marketplace that also specializes in cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Ford and Rivian have agreed to work together to develop an “all-new, next-generation battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV (electric vehicle) portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform,” Ford said in its statement.

“This strategic partnership marks another key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility,” said RJ Scaringe, Rivian founder and CEO. “Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with Bill Ford being one of the industry’s earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more electric vehicles on the road.”

Ford, executive chairman of the company, said in the statement: “We are excited to invest in and partner with Rivian. I have gotten to know and respect RJ, and we share a common goal to create a sustainable future for our industry through innovation.”

While Ford intends to develop a new vehicle using Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform, this is in addition to Ford’s existing plans to develop a portfolio of battery electric vehicles. As part of its previously announced $11 billion EV investment, Ford already has confirmed two key fully electric vehicles: a Mustang-inspired crossover coming in 2020 and a zero-emissions version of the best-selling F-150 pickup, the company said.

Tesla is considered a key competitor on these upcoming projects.

Prior to the public announcement, Ford briefed analysts in North America.

“This investment by Ford in Rivian makes tremendous sense for increasing the number of options it has for future electric vehicles between its existing current programs and the addition of Rivian’s electrification platform,” said market analyst Jon Gabrielsen, who advises auto manufacturers and parts suppliers.

“At this early stage of market entry with some initial all electric vehicles, it is difficult to know which technological approaches will turn out to be best and how many resources Ford will need to do the development _ depending upon the rate that the consumers embrace them. Rivian essentially provides Ford with buffer product development capacity in the event they need it, without the potentially higher expense and time duration to further ramp up their internal EV development operations that rapidly. And if they don’t need much of it they still benefit from ownership in a company selling to others.”

Rivian, which moved to metro Detroit in 2013, unveiled an electric pickup and SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2018.

The company, which had about 750 employees at its various locations in February, has touted a possible 400-mile-per-charge battery range and been dubbed a “Tesla killer” by some industry watchers. Its focus, however, is on building vehicles for the active lifestyle set; it expects to deliver its vehicles to customers starting late next year.

The investment is subject to customary regulatory approval.

Ford’s president of global operations, Joe Hinrichs, will join Rivian’s board of directors.

By Phoebe Wall Howard

Detroit Free Press

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