By Paul Lienert and Ankit Ajmera
(Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it will invest $500 million in U.S. electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC, joining Amazon.com Inc in backing the potential rival to Silicon Valley's Tesla Inc.
Ford said it will use Rivian's "skateboard" - a chassis that bundles electric motor, batteries and controls - to build a new vehicle for North America. It did not provide details on what type of vehicle, and where or when it would be built.
Michigan-based Rivian, founded in 2009, has raised more than $1.5 billion from investors. A company spokesman declined to provide a valuation for the company, but investor website Dealroom.com estimates Rivian's value at $5 billion to $7 billion.
Tesla's market value is around $45 billion, while Ford's market cap is just under $38 billion. In mid-day trade, Ford shares were flat at $9.50, while those of Tesla were down a fraction at $263.07.
On Wednesday, Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett said the deal with Rivian does not affect Ford's discussions with Volkswagen AG about sharing the German automaker’s electric vehicle architecture.
“It does not interfere" with Volkswagen, Hackett said during a conference call on Wednesday. “This is a specific platform that helps us in areas we weren’t considering with others.”
Rivian's first products, a large pickup truck and a utility vehicle, are slated to go into production in late 2020 and early 2021, CEO R.J. Scaringe said. Those two electric vehicles, along with the skateboard that Ford will use, will be built at Rivian's plant, a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois.
Scaringe said Rivian and Ford "put this deal together over the last six months."
Announcement of the Ford deal followed reports that General Motors Co and Rivian had broken off discussions. Reuters reported in February that GM was in talks to invest in Rivian.
On Wednesday, a GM spokesman said the automaker "does not comment on discussions with other parties as a matter of policy."
In February, Amazon said it would lead a $700 million investment in Rivian.
Amazon also said this week that it will partner with Ford in providing cloud-based transportation services.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, automotive, said Ford already is "in the middle" of developing a battery-electric version of its best-selling F-series pickup "and we didn't want to slow that down."
Hinrichs will join the Rivian board.
Ford's said its investment in Rivian is separate from the No. 2 U.S. automaker's previously announced $11 billion investment in EVs, which include 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup by 2022.
In March, VW and Ford signed a deal to develop mid-size pickup trucks and are continuing discussions about extending the alliance to include electric and autonomous vehicles and mobility services.
(Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Joe White in Detroit; Editing by Bernard Orr and Steve Orlofsky)