February 13th, 2019 by Steve Hanley
Yesterday, we reported on a possible partnership between Tesla and General Motors for an all-electric pickup truck. Hours later, there was a new report from Reuters that put the kibosh on that rumor and suggests GM and Amazon are prepared to make a major investment in Rivian instead. What can we deduce from this swirl of rumors? Just this — someone at GM has awoken from a long winter’s nap to discover the electric vehicle revolution is real and the General had better start taking things seriously if it intends to remain in business for long.
Reuters says the deal would give both companies a minority interest in the Plymouth, Michigan, company, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The deal would value Rivian at between $1 billion and $2 billion. The Reuters source says the deal could be announced as early as this month but cautions nothing is final yet. As my old Irish grandmother was fond of saying, “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.”
Reuters asked GM for a comment on the story and got this brief email in response. “We admire Rivian’s contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future.” Amazon and Rivian did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters. In prior remarks, GM CEO Mary Barra said her company has only given a “tiny bit of thought” to developing electric pickup trucks. Hmm…
At the Los Angeles Auto Show in December, Rivian announced its intention to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2020. Estimated prices for its electric pickup truck and SUV are $75,000 and up. Both are humongous vehicles that could well appeal to affluent customers. Tesla and Workhorse are also intent on bringing electric pickup trucks to market — although, Elon Musk has indicated there are several things on his “to do” list that have priority, such as the Model Y crossover.
It seems Workhorse is closest to having an electric truck ready for market. It expects to begin production of its W-15 electric pickup for commercial customers in the second half of this year, and for private customers in early 2020. Being first to market could give Workhorse a significant advantage over the competition.
Rivian was founded in 2009 by R.J. Scaringe and has attracted $500 million in investment from Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel Co. Sumitomo Corporation of America has also invested an undisclosed amount of money and Standard Chartered has provided $200 million in debt financing.
Since this entire report is based on the information of one unnamed individual, it must be taken with a large pinch of salt. What does seem beyond dispute is that big corporations that used to whine about how “nobody wants to buy an electric vehicle” are slowly, slowly starting to change their tune. That in itself is reason enough for optimism about the inevitability of the electric transportation revolution.