RivianDETROIT — Amazon Inc. will lead a $700 million investment round in electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive.

The suburban Detroit company announced the investment Friday, following reports of the companies as well as General Motors being in talks earlier in the week.

A Rivian spokesman said Amazon is one of two investors in the round, which does not include GM. The other is the company’s long-term investment partner Abdul Latif Jameel Co., a Saudi auto distributor.

“This investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility,” said Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe in a release. “Beyond simply eliminating compromises that exist around performance, capability and efficiency, we are working to drive innovation across the entire customer experience.”

Just because GM is not a part of this round does not mean the company is not in talks to invest in Rivian. Earlier in the week, Reuters first reported that Amazon and GM were in talks to make investments in Rivian that could value it at between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Rivian declined to comment on the breakdown of the $700 million investment, nor would it comment the company’s valuation.

Scaringe, speaking last month at the Automotive News World Congress, discussed partnering with other brands and potentially licensing technologies to other companies in 2019.

Rivian plans to produce vehicles at the former Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plant in Normal, Ill., it acquired in 2017. Deliveries of the R1T pickup are expected to begin late 2020, followed by the SUV and four additional products through 2025.

Scaringe previously said all the planned products share the same battery and flat “skateboard” architecture.

GM executives, including CEO Mary Barra, have teased the idea of an all-electric pickup for the automaker. However, the company has never put a time frame on such a project. GM, following reports of the talks, said it admired Rivian’s “contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future.”

An all-electric future is part of Barra’s “Triple Zero” vision: Zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

Why EV pickups make sense

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a note this week that the next and potentially imminent major product frontier for EVs will be the highly lucrative and U.S.-dominated pickup market.

“A culmination of battery cost reduction, architecture, duty cycle, and price point – e-pickups are an important area of investor focus,” he said.

Having a stake in Rivian could help an automaker such as GM bring an all-electric pickup to market without straining or moving internal resources away from its full-size pickups and SUVs with internal combustion engines.

Electric pickups, according to Jonas, make sense for a number of reasons:

  • High torque for towing and hauling.
  • Higher vehicle price points to pass on higher costs.
  • Work-site applications that can work closely with the fleet to manage with charging needs.
  • The ability to take advantage of electric power to run electric tools, accessories, and other applications.

Amazon’s interest

The benefit for a company such as Amazon, Jonas says, includes using the technology to shape electric delivery vehicles to support its own logistics efforts and tap into the $900 billion logistics industry.

Jeff Wilke, who runs Amazon’s worldwide consumer division, said the tech giant is “thrilled” to invest in Rivian.

“We’re inspired by Rivian’s vision for the future of electric transportation,” he said in a statement. “RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match,” he said.
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The reported discussions between Rivian and GM follow Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.’s president of global markets, reconfirming that the company would eventually be “electrifying the F series, both battery-electric and hybrid.” He declined to provide a time frame or specify whether Ford would offer an electric F-150, Super Duty or both.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford confirmed last year that Ford planned an F-series EV, at a celebration marking 100 years of the Rouge manufacturing complex, where the F-150 is assembled.

Michael Wayland