Ranger EV on the cards? Ford invests $713m with Tesla rival
FORD has pumped more than half a billion dollars into electric car start-up Rivian in a move that could eventually spawn a plug-in version of the popular Ranger ute.
The Blue Oval will use the new partnership to get the jump on competitors in the rush to bring electric cars to market. General Motors was believed to be interested in investing in Rivian earlier this year.
Ford has invested US$500m ($713m) in the Michigan-based maker. This vote of confidence follows a US$700m ($1b) cash injection earlier this year from tech giant Amazon in Rivian.
Rivian recently told Australian media it was planning to bring its new electric ute Down Under, possibly as soon as 2022.
Company spokesman Chris Wollen confirmed the ute would be developed in right-hand drive for overseas markets.
"We know that there's markets that will be into these vehicles and the adventure positioning and Australia fits that perfectly. We know we're nicely suited for Australia so it's an important market for us," he said.
Both Ford chairman, Bill Ford, and Rivian boss, RJ Scaringe, are excited about the potential to expand sustainable mobility through the partnership.
"This strategic partnership marks another key milestone in our drive to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility," says Scaringe.
"Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with Bill Ford being one of the industry's earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more electric vehicles on the road."
Ford says: "We are excited to invest in and partner with Rivian. I have gotten to know and respect RJ, and we share a common goal to create a sustainable future for our industry through innovation."
The cash injection gives Ford a minority stake in the company and it will build an all-new electric vehicle off Rivian's "skateboard" platform. Rivian's platform has nearly all the vehicle's vitals underneath the floor, opening up space in the cabin and under the bonnet.
Ford chief Jim Hackett believes the partnership will be mutually beneficial.
"As we continue in our transformation of Ford with new forms of intelligent vehicles and propulsion, this partnership with Rivian brings a fresh approach to both," says Hackett.
"At the same time, we believe Rivian can benefit from Ford's industrial expertise and resources."
The new electric vehicle will be separate from the 40 electrified vehicle that Ford plans to build by 2022. Ford already has two electric vehicles in the works, an SUV inspired by the popular Mustang sports car and a zero-emissions version of the world's best selling vehicle - the F-150 pick-up truck.
Rivian turned heads in November last year at Los Angeles motor show with its futuristic R1T electric dual-cab ute concept and R1S electric seven-seat SUV.
Both vehicles promise supercar performance with an electric motor powering each wheel combining for power outputs of 522kW/1120Nm. This combined with high capacity 180kWh battery packs that give a claimed range of up to 640km.
Rivian plans to have the two vehicles to market by 2020. However, production has been a headache for makers of mass-produced EVs. Tesla had well publicised issues with the Model 3 production and Audi is experiencing similar delays with its first electric vehicle the e-tron SUV.