The deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, comes on the heels of Rivian landing a $700 million investment led by Amazon. It also closely follows the reported collapse of talks between Rivian and General Motors over a possible investment. Rivian has been around for about a decade under various names but made its coming-out party only six months ago at the L.A. Auto Show, where it unveiled its first two products: the R1S SUV and R1T pickup truck. They're due starting next year.
Ford offered no details about what kind of vehicle it plans based off of Rivian's technology or when it will arrive. But CEO Jim Hackett says it will be all-new and "incremental" to its previously announced $11 billion investment in developing electric vehicles. Ford has already announced plans for a Mustang-inspired all-electric crossover in 2020 and a battery-electric version of its best-selling F-150.
Assuming the deal goes through, Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of automotive, will join Rivian's seven-member board of directors.
On a conference call with reporters and investors, Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said the company has been thinking about forming strategic partners for about a year and held numerous discussions with other companies. He said he has worked closely with Hinrichs for about six months to hammer out a deal with Ford. "The relationship and the alignment that I have and the company has with Ford and what ... [their] team has done is strong," he said.
Scaringe acknowledged that licensing the company's skateboard platform to other manufacturers could lead to product overlap, but he said it was important to leverage its technology across multiple brands and distinguish itself as an adventure and active-lifestyle brand. "This product that we're putting on the platform with Ford will be different from that," he said.
For its part, Ford said the deal will help it speed product development and save money. Rivian will handle production of its electric skateboard platform at the former Mitsubishi plant it bought in Normal, Ill., where Scaringe says it has annual capacity of 250,000 units. Hackett said the investment in Rivian does not interfere with Ford's ongoing discussions with Volkswagen about partnering on the development of electric vehicles.
"As we continue in our transformation fo Ford with new forms of intelligent vehicles and propulsion, this partnership with Rivian brings a fresh approach to both," Hackett said in a statement. "At the same time, we believe Rivian can benefit from Ford's industrial expertise and resources."