By on April 24, 2019

Not long ago, it was expected that General Motors would sink a pile of cash into upstart electric automaker Rivian. Instead, GM held its horses while Amazon plunked down a $700 million investment in the Michigan-based company.

Now, Ford Motor Company is filling GM’s shoes, offering up half a billion dollars and announcing a co-developed product with the EV company, creator of the long-range R1T pickup and R1S electric three-row SUV. The big question now is: what form will that vehicle take?

Rivian makes no bones about its desire to partner with other automakers and offer its “skateboard” EV platform — with integrated quad-motor powertrain — to those who want it. Well, Ford wants it.

The Blue Oval claims the investment will birth an “all-new, next-generation battery electric vehicle” for the company.

Rivian’s skateboard is a flexible architecture with three available battery sizes, the largest of which is said to propel its R1S a total of 410 miles. Range like this would give any automaker a leg up on competitors struggling to develop such a vehicle in-house. The company’s Plymouth, Michigan HQ and engineering center is strategically positioned to woo Detroit automakers while tapping into the region’s deep pool of suppliers.

Bolstering its appeal are electrical/tech facilities in southern California, with an abandoned Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois (purchased for a song) serving as a production site.

“Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with [Chairman] 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,” said Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe.

While the R1T, scheduled for production in late 2020, has been paraded around to various auto shows already, the company uses Ford F-150 bodies for its test mules. Who know the maker of those bodies would take the plunge?

“As we continue in our transformation of Ford with new forms of intelligent vehicles and propulsion, this partnership with Rivian brings a fresh approach to both,” said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO, in a statement. “At the same time, we believe Rivian can benefit from Ford’s industrial expertise and resources.”

Ford stresses that the two existing EV products in its pipeline — a Mustang-inspired crossover due next year and a future electric F-150 — are still a go. In a Wednesday Twitter reply, company spokesman Mike Levine stated, “Ford’s battery electric F-150 has been under development for some time and will continue as planned.”

Nor will the pair-up with Rivian impact talks with alliance partner Volkswagen, which is expected to give Ford access to its MEB electric vehicle architecture. As MEB underpins a range of small- to medium-sized vehicles in VW’s future lineup, it can be assumed that Ford has a large electric SUV in mind for Rivian’s platform.

As reported by Automotive News‘ Mike Martinez, Hackett claims, “This is a specific platform that helps us in an area we weren’t considering with others.”

Again, a big, green SUV seems the likely end result of the Rivian pair-up.

Ford’s $500 million investment, after securing regulatory approval, will see Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of Automotive, take a seat on Rivian’s seven-member board.

[Images: Rivian Automotive]

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27 Comments on “Ford Teams Up With Rivian, Greases the Wheels With Half a Billion Dollars...”


  • avatar

    Missing from this write-up is the crucial factor that GM wanted exclusivity, which Rivian was unwilling to give, according to Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo this week.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Not being in the industry, I really dont understand the value of this tie-up. I would think that everything that Rivian can do Ford can do better. Ford has the manufacturing capacity, the worldwide sales outlet, probably more advanced technology or at least access to it.

    Is the value simply in buying a brand that isnt Ford? I think there is some though that a pure electric brand name may have more draw than the traditional automakers.

    Not knowing what Rivian has to offer, hard to say.

    • 0 avatar
      TimK

      I agree, it makes little sense given that Ford (if you believe their claims) already has multiple EV projects in advanced development. Other than some intellectual property, what does Rivian bring? $500MM? Sounds like a pump-n-dump without the bother of going public and selling the shares.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      ” probably more advanced technology or at least access to it.”

      It is precisely this kind of team-up that would indicate that they do not have that technology in house. While they have supposedly been working on their own EV tech, Ford has shown zero indication that they have been working on a skateboard platform like this, and every indication that they want to borrow that tech from both Volkswagen and Rivian instead of developing it themselves. It’s pretty likely Ford has been working on adapting electric tech onto versions of a traditional platform. That would make short-term sense for them since they are already tooled up to work with that. This gives them the capacity to work with a whole new type of platform with less risk than doing it themselves.

      GM was in the same boat, but wanted exclusive access to that tech.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @FerrariLaFerrariFace: Agreed.

        Many people think that the world’s largest mfrs can magically conjure any vehicle or technology they want, but that’s just not true. Rivian must have ‘opened the kimona’ enough to show Ford something they liked – something they don’t have to develop in-house if Rivian has already done it.

    • 0 avatar
      gomez

      If Rivian is already far along in the development of the battery and platform, which it would need to be if it plans to hit its late 2020 launch date, $500M would be a fairly inexpensive investment on Ford’s part versus continuing to develop a similar platform itself. Given that the Rivian mules already wear F-150 cabs and beds, it might be a cheaper path than continuing their own F-150 EV project.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Ford clearly stated that this will not affect development of the electric F-150, which is already in an advanced stage. This will be for future vehicles, not ones 90% (+/-) ready for the market at this time.

        • 0 avatar
          gomez

          Yes, but the current F-150 EV design may be a stopgap. I could see the next version adapting a version of the Rivian skateboard chassis.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            ” I could see the next version adapting a version of the Rivian skateboard chassis.”

            It’s that Rivian skateboard chassis that has Ford’s attention.

            The F150 EV has the battery in the truckbed for the mule, but real-world practicality dictates the battery should be under the hood or within the confines of the chassis rails.

            That would also mean a pancake-motor on each wheel for a 2WD and 4WD version.

            It looks like Rivian achieved that.

            BTW, a few Electric Companies have been using F150 BEV trucks for years.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    So far, it seems like Rivian is the real deal. Their SUV and truck appear to be the itch that the market might want to be scratched.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Both Rivian designs are a lot more practical for the real world than the sedans of Tesla, GM, Mitsu, Nissan and whatever else is out there in China, et al.

      No doubt there will always be buyers of BEV sedans, but SUVs and trucks are where it’s at, and where the money is being made, now and for the foreseeable future in the global auto market.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    Looks like a Flex with Edsel headlights.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Also don’t get this. Why bother when you’re already a global automaker? Can probably already do everything better yourself.

    There is only one Tesla.

    This stinks to me of all the Prius hype back when. All the automakers thought the hype was HYBRID! The hype was really only PRIUS!

    Same here I suspect. Hype isn’t ELECTRIC! It’s TESLA!

    (I think Tesla is a joke but you can’t deny they’ve captured the hype)

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      You remind me of a guy I knew in the 70s who thought those little Japanese economy cars would never amount to anything in the US of A.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Obviously they have something that would benefit Ford, and Ford has the tools to get them off the ground.

      I dont understand the mindset behind questioning a deal like this. We dont know everything Ford knows, has, or is planning. This goes for anyone who sits back with barely any information whatsoever and critiques decisions made by any multi-billion dollar company. They have their reasons, rest assured.

      In other words, I feel the exact same way when I see similar comments about other mergers, partnerships, acquisitions etc that dont happen to involve Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Why bother when you’re already a global automaker? Can probably already do everything better yourself.”

      Not so. Right now, the only mfr with meaningful EV battery production capacity is Tesla. Their Gigafactory cost billions and several years to build, and not even Toyota could replicate it with ease.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        there’s no law that says the car company has to own its cell production just because Tesla did.

        I’d argue the main (only) reason Tesla had to do the Gigafactory is that no supplier would have stuck their neck out for them and tooled up their own production just based on Tesla’s promises.

        now that the industry is moving/being pushed towards electrification, outsourcing to suppliers who know how to make cells makes more sense.

        • 0 avatar
          gomez

          True, there is no law that the company has to own the battery production, but so far there are few outside suppliers that have the battery capacity to produce enough batteries to meet demand.

          Look at LG Chem. They have multiple customer contracts for EV batteries and can’t meet demand. This means the customers must limit availability of their EVs. It has already happened to Hyundai and Audi. If you own the battery manufacturing, you don’t have to fight someone else for batteries.

          Eventually, battery makers will expand to satisfy demand and at some point it may not make sense for Tesla to manufacture its own batteries. But right now, that Gigafactory is a significant advantage.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            you realize the market for high capacity batteries is larger than electric cars, right? it doesn’t matter *who* makes the cells, they’re all competing for the same raw materials.

  • avatar
    thesource

    SUVs and pickups are the itch that need to be scratched, but I’d venture that Ford drops a Transit van “box” on this skateboard platform first. The ‘greening” of delivery fleets and Ford’s positioning in the commercial space, hmmm….what, who am I kidding. SUV and pickup.

  • avatar
    ejwu

    For large companies the most efficient way to do R&D is actually buying up companies. Most people probably don’t understand this.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Hypothesis: Let’s face it, GM and Ford are pretty backward technologically – this is why when they need new tech they generally buy it rather than develop it in-house.

    Hypothesis is open to testing. I’ll wait here while you list the 15-20 most significant new technologies which GM and Ford have introduced in the 21st century. (Adapting technologies from other industries a decade or more after they were pioneered does not count. Supplier innovations receive partial credit.)

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    Hypothesis: No one here really knows dick about the future other than it is a variation on the present.


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