Rivian and Ford will partner on a Ford-branded electric vehicle.
Ford's number-two executive will sit on Rivian's board of directors.
Rivian intends to begin production of both the R1S SUV and R1T pickup in 2020.
Rivian now counts Ford as a willing partner to push its battery-electric pickup and SUV prototypes to the assembly line. Ford's $500 million investment has seeded Rivian with at least $1.1 billion in outside funding, so now Rivian must deliver on several fronts: Build a new EV for Ford, deliver packages for Amazon, and ship a boatload of trucks to Saudi Arabia.
The Ford gamble in the Michigan-based EV startup -which has its headquarters just 20 miles west of Ford's in Dearborn-will place Joe Hinrichs, Ford's number-two man in charge of global automotive operations, on Rivian's as yet unannounced board of directors. Ford wants Rivian to build Ford an "all-new battery-electric vehicle" that is unrelated to the forthcoming Mustang-based crossover and electric F-150. You can bet all $500 million it won't be a car. Ford is particularly teased by Rivian's modular "skateboard" platform, which integrates the battery, motors, suspension, cooling, and brakes into one interchangeable frame that can be swapped from vehicle to vehicle. It also mounts these components as low in the vehicle as possible, another potential win for handling and off-road stability.
The Dearborn money follows $700 million from Amazon in February. In May 2018, Rivian secured $200 million from a London bank to buy and retool the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois. Before that, Rivian had raised $450 million from other private investors and companies, including Abdul Latif Jameel, an investment firm that is also the Toyota distributor for Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. arm of Japan's Sumitumo Corporation, a conglomerate of businesses involving metals, aircraft leasing, and railroads.
The R1T pickup and R1S SUV that debuted at Los Angeles in November had been under development for a decade when Robert Scaringe, who holds a doctorate in engineering from MIT, founded the company. The vehicles have attracted media attention for their unique style, independent electric motors at each axle, more than 400 miles of range-not to mention the swanky afterparty in L.A. where Rivian paid Rihanna to show up. Who will show up with the next half-billion is anyone's guess.
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