Few auto companies that have yet to launch production of any vehicles have attracted as much interest and anticipation as Rivian, the decade-old electric vehicle wunderkind that has amassed a multibillion-dollar war chest from investors including Ford and Amazon. Now, new details have surfaced about its plans to finally kickstart manufacturing later this year at a former Mitsubishi plant in rural Illinois.
MotorTrend spoke with Rivian CEO and founder R.J. Scaringe, who said the company is on track to launch pilot-build vehicles in the third quarter, followed by full production of the R1T pickup starting in December and the R1S three-row SUV about three months later. But the big news is that Rivian will handle production of a Ford or Lincoln electric SUV in its own plant.
Scaringe told the publication that Ford is designing its own “top hat” — essentially, the body — for a high-end luxury SUV to ride atop Rivian’s skateboard so that the blue oval’s electronics can be integrated with Rivian’s system. We’ve asked Ford for confirmation, but CEO Jim Hackett has previously hinted that Rivian would handle assembly of its future joint EV at the former Mitsubishi plant it purchased in Normal, Illinois.
Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform combines the electric motors, battery pack, controls and traditional suspention systems. Scaringe said design and engineering of the Ford/Lincoln product are ready to go, but he wouldn’t confirm a timeline or which brand it would come from, saying only that it’s “an impressive product, to say the least.” Reuters previously reported, citing anonymous sources, that Lincoln will use the Rivian skateboard for an all-wheel-drive luxury SUV due in mid-2022.
MT also reports that Rivian will have a separate production line focused on building its skateboard chassis shared with Ford and Amazon, which has ordered 100,000 Prime commercial delivery vans from the company by 2024 on top of of its $700 million investment, announced last February. Another line will be used to assemble the three different battery packs Rivian will offer — including to Amazon for its Prime delivery vans — and route the finished packs directly to the skateboard line. Then there will be two final-assembly lines — one for the high-content Rivian and Ford products, and another for the low-content Prime vans. There are lots of other interesting details about the work Rivian has done to get the plant ready that are worth reading.
Rivian has publicly announced four investment rounds, all in 2019, including $700 million from Amazon and $500 million from Ford. Both companies also took part in a $1.3 billion round of investment, announced last month and led by T. Rowe Price.