(This story has been updated to include details of Ford’s talks with VW about an EV partnership.)
Ford Motor Co. will invest $500 million in battery-electric vehicle company Rivian, a move that will allow the 116-year-old automaker to use the start-up’s skateboard-like platform for one of its own electric vehicles.
The announcement comes a little more than two months after suburban Detroit-based Rivian inked a separate, $750 million investment deal with a consortium led by online retailer Amazon. Together, the two new partnerships are expected to help firmly establish the start-up and allow Rivian to move forward with plans to produce two vehicles it revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November that will be sold under its own brand.
“We believe (this) marks a step forward, not only for our respective companies but also the industry, as we move toward a sustainable future,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s chief executive officer. “For Ford, the news today is fully consistent with the vision to become the world’s most trusted company regarding smart vehicles for a smart world.”
Ford was an early pioneer in the emerging field of electrification, launching an array of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs. But it has fallen behind, particular when it comes to the long-range models pioneered by Tesla and now offered by a number of competitors, including rivals as diverse as General Motors and Jaguar.
Ford recently announced plans to invest $11 billion in its electrification program, confirming two specific new models: an all-electric SUV that will be heavily influenced by the high-performance Ford Mustang, as well as an all-electric version of Ford’s F-150 pickup.
(Amazon becoming lead investor in Rivian. Click Here for the story.)
Ford CEO Hackett noted that the investment in Rivian will be incremental, and not part of the original $11 billion investment program.
Meanwhile, Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford’s automotive operations, said the Rivian partnership will not impact Ford’s already ongoing development efforts, such as the electric F-150. Instead, the Detroit automaker will use Rivian’s technology for yet another new vehicle.
Hinrichs declined to discuss details of that new vehicle. But he said that Rivian will provide a skateboard-like platform containing batteries, motors and other drivetrain components. The skateboard approach has become the new industry norm when it comes to electrification. It allows a manufacturer to free up space normally taken by a vehicle’s engine compartment and repurpose it for cargo and passenger space.
(Click Here for details about Rivian’s two long-range EVs shown in Los Angeles.)
In the case of the two new Rivian products, the R1T pickup and R1S sport-utility vehicle, the engine compartment will be transformed into a “frunk,” or front trunk.
Rivian will produce the skateboard platform at a plant in Normal, Illinois, that will also build the R1T and R1S and other future models under development that will be sold through the start-ups own brand and dealer network. Ford will take the platform and finish assembly of its planned vehicle elsewhere, though Hinrichs declined to say where.
The new deal with Ford follows the breakdown of discussions between Rivian and General Motors. Sources told TheDetroitBureau.com those talks collapsed because GM was looking for an exclusive arrangement that would have barred Rivian from forming other partnerships or launching its own brand.
(EV truck maker Rivian reportedly in talks with Amazon, GM. Click Here for the story.)
While Rivian will now have the flexibility to form alliances with other automakers, there are currently no plans to do so, said RJ Scaringe, the start-up’s founder and CEO.
As for Ford, the automaker announced a joint venture with Volkswagen in January to partner on commercial vehicle development, with Hackett and other Ford execs indicating other projects were in the works, including the possibility of partnering on electric vehicles. That is still under negotiation, Hackett said Wednesday, and would apparently focus on the use of a different platform than the one Ford will be getting from Rivian — though it will also use a skateboard-like layout.