Ford's $500 Million Investment In Rivian Includes New Electric Vehicle | WGLT

Ford's $500 Million Investment In Rivian Includes New Electric Vehicle

Apr 24, 2019

Ford plans to invest $500 million in Rivian and use the electric vehicle startup’s skateboard platform to build a new battery-powered vehicle, the companies announced Wednesday.

Rivian remains an independent company and still plans to build its own Rivian-branded all-electric vehicles in Normal. But Ford is the first outside automaker to announce plans to use Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform—including its in-house battery technology—to build its own branded vehicles.

"We can learn from each other and compete with each other at the same time."

“This strategic partnership marks another key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility,” RJ Scaringe, Rivian founder and CEO, said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

The Ford announcement comes two months after another giant American company—Amazon—announced a $700 million equity investment in Rivian. It’s still unclear how that Rivian-Amazon partnership will play out, but Rivian’s technology is expected to be used somehow in package delivery. Scaringe has declined to disclose other aspects of that partnership.

A potential partnership between Rivian and GM never materialized.

Rivian still plans to make its own vehicles at its Normal manufacturing plant, starting in late 2020 with an SUV and pickup. Production of its batteries—offering 400-plus miles of range—will also take place in Normal. Bloomberg reported last week that Rivian plans to offer six vehicles at different price points by 2025.

The new Ford electric vehicle using Rivian’s skateboard will be in addition to its previously announced portfolio of EVs. A hybrid version of its Ford F-150 pickup will debut next year, with an all-electric model to follow. Ford is also partnering with Volkswagen to build commercial vans and medium-sized pickup trucks.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of automotive, downplayed the possibility of any friction between partners who are also competitors. Hinrichs will join Rivian’s board of directors.

“Partnerships and alliances are all part of how this transportation system evolves as an ecosystem. We can learn from each other and compete with each other at the same time,” Hinrichs said.

Scaringe said Rivian’s vehicles—the brand is active lifestyles and adventure—will be different from Ford’s 

Rivian-based EV.

“There’s always gonna be some overlap in these types of partnerships,” Scaringe said. “We look at it a little differently, a little broader. We look at it from the need to provide customers with different options and different solutions. In order to provide that, it’s important to leverage that technology over multiple brands.”

In addition to Ford’s cash, Rivian will also get access to its industrial expertise and resources.

“There is a lot to learn from companies like Ford that really understand the complexity of producing such a robust and complex product as a vehicle,” Scaringe said.

Ford’s investment is subject to customary regulatory approval. Rivian's other publicly known investors are Sumitomo, the Japanese company with a U.S. operation based in New York; Standard Chartered Bank, an international banking group based in London; and Abdul Latif Jameel, the Saudi conglomerate that counts transportation among its core businesses.

Rivian's hiring in Normal will ramp up throughout this year and next. It now has around 750 employees companywide, with most in Michigan, California, and the U.K. To get its millions in local and state tax breaks, Rivian has promised to hire 1,000 full-time workers in Normal by 2024.

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