Lincoln is preparing to introduce its first all-electric model and is turning to Detroit-based start-up Rivian for help.
The announcement confirms a report published by TheDetroitBureau.com last month. Neither Lincoln nor Rivian are offering specific details on the type of product they plan to build, company sources confirmed it will be a long-range SUV, in line with current market trends that have seen utility vehicles account for about two-thirds of current U.S. market demand.
The tie-up between Lincoln and Rivian comes as the first formal project since the luxury brand’s parent last spring announced it would invest $500 million in the EV start-up. Rivian has also signed up a number of other major partners, including Amazon, the online retail giant planning to purchase 100,000 of all-electric delivery vans by 2024.
“Working with Rivian marks a pivotal point for Lincoln as we move toward a future that includes fully electric vehicles,” said Joy Falotico, president, The Lincoln Motor Co. “This vehicle will take Quiet Flight to a new place – zero emissions, effortless performance and connected and intuitive technology. It’s going to be stunning.”
Rivian itself has been developing two battery-electric vehicles set to go into production next year: the R1T pickup and R1S sport-utility vehicle. There had been some early speculation Rivian might assist the Ford brand in developing the electric pickup it has been working on. Ford has since said that it is developing the truck on its own but would have other projects that Rivian would participate in.
What remains to be seen is exactly what role the Detroit-based EV company will play in the development of the Lincoln SUV. Insiders indicate Rivian will provide a version of its skateboard-like platform and electric drive technology. But that “architecture” is flexible enough to allow Lincoln to come up with a product that isn’t just a clone of the R1S in terms of size and design.
“Our vehicle development partnership with Ford is an exciting opportunity to pair our technology with Lincoln’s vision for innovation and refinement. We are proud to collaborate on Lincoln’s first fully electric vehicle,” said Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe in a statement announcing the new EV project.
While Lincoln was an early player in the electrified vehicle market, it initially focused on hybrids, beginning with a version of its old MKZ sedan – which will go out of production later this year. But, like parent Ford Motor Co., it is quickly expanding its battery-car program and shifting emphasis to more advanced electric drive technology.
That includes plug-in hybrid “Grand Touring” versions of both the new Corsair and Aviator models. The smaller of the two is what has come to be known as a “compliance car,” with relatively modest range and so-so performance, largely intended to meet strict California emissions standards. But the Aviator moves into a new area. It is not only the most powerful version of the three-row SUV but also the most powerful.
For luxury buyers, performance is considered a major attribute, one of the benefits that can be achieved by using electric motors which deliver maximum torque the moment they start spinning, said Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Navigant Research.
Neither Ford nor Rivian are adding further details about the Lincoln SUV project, though insiders hint that it will likely take another two to three years to bring to market.
By then, the market will feature a growing number of all-electric SUVs, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E set to reach U.S. showrooms this coming autumn, the Volkswagen ID.4 and the Tesla Model Y. The push is equally aggressive in the luxury segment where Audi and Jaguar already offer battery-powered SUVs. Cadillac plans to introduce its first all-electric model, also an SUV, this year. Porsche will follow with a battery-powered Macan and Genesis is working up an electric ute, as well.
“A luxury brand without EVs will not be credible,” SangYup Lee, the head of design for Genesis, told TheDetroitBureau.com this week. And, considering current market trends, most new battery-electric vehicles are expected to be SUVs.