Ford has invested $500 million into Rivian, an electric-car start-up. The investment marks Rivian's growth over a decade as an electric startup focused on trucks and SUVs.
Rivian has taken the slow road since its founding in 2009, when it was known as Mainstream Motors and based out of Florida. A couple of name changes later and the company moved to Plymouth, Michigan, closer to the historic heart of the American automotive industry. Then, In 2018, it finally unveiled an electric truck and SUV.
Prior to Ford's investment, the company had raised $450 million on its own through Saudi Arabia-based investment group Abdul Latif Jameel, Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., and London’s Standard Chartered Bank, as well as picking up money from Amazon.
While the company initially started in Florida, it was eyeing an electric sports coupe. But as the years moved on, it became clear to R.J. Scaringe, Rivian’s 36-year-old founder and CEO, that companies like Tesla had already cornered that market. "[We weren’t] building something that the world truly needed that was different than other things in the market," he told Forbes earlier this year in a profile.
The company has two vehicles in the works right now, a 5-door truck known as the R1T and a seven-passenger SUV known as the R1S. Both promise 0-60 in under 3 seconds as well as a battery life that will take passengers up to 400 miles.
The company has expanded over the years, with a battery lab in Irvine, California, a autonomous research and development center in San Jose, California, an engineering office in the U.K. and a manufacturing center under development in Normal, Illinois.
"We've already got a team of around 60 people in that facility," says Mark Vinnels, the company's executive director of engineering and programs, speaking to Autoblog last year. "All the tooling, paint shop, everything. Configuring it for how we're going to build this car. Those guys are intimately involved with the design of all the components, and have been for a couple of years. So the design for manufacturing, the quality aspirations that we've got for the vehicle, that's a key part of that."
The company has goals of selling approximately 20,000 vehicles in 2021 and to double that number in 2022.
Ford has retooled its approach towards electric vehicles several times over, with recent plans calling for electric or hybrid versions of all its vehicles in Europe. But its electric and hybrid presence in the United States has been left limited, with competition like Tesla, Nissan, Toyota and Honda garnering sales.
While there are other players involved in SUV electric/hybrid cars, like the Tesla Model X, the market remains smaller. The truck market seems wide open, although Tesla is also developing a truck of its own. The automotive giant has tabbed $11 billion to develop nearly electric vehicles, including version of its F-150 pickup truck.
The company tells the New York Times that it is interested in Rivian's "skateboard," the design foundation of many electric vehicles which includes placement of battery pack, drive units, suspension, braking, and a thermal system into the vehicle's chassis.
“We can go faster working with Rivian,” says Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford’s global automotive businesses.
The deal is still pending regulatory approval, and the two companies declined to discuss how much control of Rivian would be given to Ford.
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