Ford Motor Co. will invest $500 million in Rivian Automotive Inc., aligning the maker of the industry-leading F-Series pickup line with an upstart that’s electrifying gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The second-biggest U.S. automaker also is forming a partnership with Rivian, which Amazon.com Inc. backed with an investment announced in February. Ford will build a vehicle using the platform that Rivian founder R.J. Scaringe said last week he plans to share with several companies.
Ford plans to bring a gas-electric hybrid version of its top-selling F-150 truck to market next year and has said it will also bring out an all-electric version of the truck. It now will add a vehicle that company officials declined to describe in detail that will be built off the truck-size platform Rivian refers to as its “skateboard.” This will be on top of the $11 billion Ford is plowing into bringing 40 electrified vehicles to market by 2022, including a Mustang-inspired, battery-powered crossover utility vehicle next year.
“We don’t have all the answers and we don’t pretend to,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s automotive president, who will join Rivian’s board of directors. “We can learn a lot from Rivian.”
Scaringe, 36, has clinched the deal with Ford after spurning a potential partnership with General Motors Co. The two companies discussed GM buying an equity stake in Rivian, but negotiations reached an impasse and appear to have collapsed, Bloomberg News reported earlier.
Rivian has six vehicles planned by 2025 — and those are just the models that will be sold under its own brand. The company has been taking $1,000 deposits for the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, with deliveries slated to start in the fall of 2020.
Ford also has been in talks with Volkswagen about tapping the world’s largest automaker for its electric-car platform, dubbed MEB. It now has several options to develop EVs: possibly working with VW on smaller cars and crossovers, working with Rivian on larger SUVs and trucks, and engineering models on its own, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with car-shopping researcher Autotrader.
“They can multitask,” Krebs said by phone. “This is a smart move for both companies. Ford has been talking about electric vehicles, specifically pickup trucks. You can also imagine commercial vans.”
Ford has flirted with partnering with an electric-vehicle start-up before. Bloomberg News reported in July 2017 that the company had held early-stage takeover talks with Lucid Motors Inc. Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett confirmed last year that the company “looked at” Lucid, without elaborating.
Hackett, 64, said on a conference call Wednesday that the deal with Rivian won’t interfere with Ford’s talks with VW. He said he was impressed with Rivian’s “clean-sheet approach.”
“They were not coming from what we would call the analog world,” Hackett said. “They were inventing.”