EV Shocker! Ford, Not GM Invests in Rivian

RJ Scaringe and Bill Ford

RJ Scaringe, Rivian founder and CEO, and Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford announced a $500 million Ford investment in Rivian. Through a strategic partnership, Ford will develop an all-new, next-generation battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform.

Upstart Rivian, a future manufacturer of electric vehicles, announced today a $500 million minority investment by the Ford Motor Company. Ford’s backing follows a $700 million investment by Amazon. Together, the two companies give Rivian the confidence and support it needs to launch their new products.

The Ford investment is stunning as it follows on the heels of a rumored stake sought by GM, but later canceled. Ford kept its negotiation with Rivian under wraps, which made today’s announcement all the more stunning.

A Board Seat and a Skateboard Platform

Ford’s stake will not only give it a voice in how Rivian is run — Executive Vice President and President of Global Operations Joe Hinrichs will join Rivian’s board of directors — the company will also receive access to Rivian’s proprietary skateboard platform.

That platform is already designed to uphold an SUV and pickup truck, two models that’ll underpin this emerging automaker. The first of the two is expected late next year. Other models may follow.

Some have speculated the skateboard platform will underpin an electric F-150, but that doesn’t seem at all likely. Notably, Ford is developing its own electrified truck based on its existing platform. Instead, we’re likely to see an all-new model, a dedicated electric vehicle for either the Ford or Lincoln brands. Perhaps both.

If the model is a Ford, an SUV is a logical approach. If Lincoln is selected, it might see a pickup truck, but we’re thinking an SUV designed to compete with the Tesla Model X or perhaps the upcoming Model Y, a small crossover is a more sensible approach.

Ford and Volkswagen

Ford’s Rivian connection won’t have any bearing on its burgeoning relationship with Volkswagen. Indeed, Ford CEO Jim Hackette told Automotive News today that “…the Rivian investment “does not interfere” with any potential deal with VW. ” The two automakers are collaborating on a few products, including a shared EV platform.

The Rivian stake is in addition to Ford’s $11 billion monetary contribution to its own electric vehicle quest. Ford has two electric models in the planning stages, including a Mustang-inspired crossover. The other model is the electrified F-150.

Rivian Independence

Neither Amazon nor Ford will have a controlling interest in Rivian, which will remain an independent company. Rivian already has the backing of two global investment firms: Saudi Arabia’s Abdul Latif Jameel Ltd. and Japan’s Sumitomo Corp.

As for GM, the news that Ford took its place in backing Rivian must be sending shockwaves through the Renaissance Center. To its credit, GM is ahead of Ford in all things electric, but having its chief rival jump in is not something the company’s executives can easily dismiss.

See AlsoRivian Automotive Draws Interest From GM, Amazon

Photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.