Ford and Rivian, an all-electric minivan manufacturer, have decided to part ways.
Ford’s first electric vehicle, the Focus Electric, launched in 2013, and its second electric vehicle, the Bolt, went on sale earlier this year. Rivian has a new model, the R1T, scheduled to launch in 2019, to be followed by the Longitude three-row SUV planned for 2021.
“We’ve come to the decision that it’s probably time for us to move in a different direction,” said Ford spokesman Anthony Ickert. The two have worked together on projects for both Ford and Ford Mondeo since Ford invested $75 million in Rivian in 2015.
“It’s our intention to move forward independently,” Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said in an interview.
Ford and Rivian did not give a reason for their decision but both described their business relationships as beneficial. Ford said it will still be selling electric vehicles.
“We’ve done a good job with our partnership with Rivian, but we don’t anticipate that going forward,” Ickert said.
Rivian has struggled with finances, delaying the R1T. It’s expected to cost $35,000 and fuel will range from $3.75 to $5.70 a gallon. And it only has four years to build it.
The company has sold just over a thousand R1T SUVs and plans to continue to sell them as it prepares for the Longitude, which will be built in Rivian’s home state of Michigan.
But Scaringe said the R1T has been much harder to develop than anticipated.
“We understand why it’s taken more time than expected to launch,” Scaringe said. “Both Ford and Rivian worked hard to make sure we developed the thing the right way. We’re both very optimistic about our future in the U.S. market.”
Scaringe added that it was “not ideal” that Ford had not invested as much in the R1T as Rivian.
The R1T came to the public eye in January 2017, when Ford sought to buy Rivian. Scaringe said the deal fell through because Ford’s board didn’t want to use cash to finance the deal.
In the meantime, Scaringe and Ickert have worked together on more than a dozen projects, including the R1T. Ickert said Ford will now look to build batteries in-house, and Rivian will no longer assist in production, although Scaringe said he believes the Longitude will be a completely self-built vehicle.
“The way we worked together on the R1T, it really opened our eyes,” Scaringe said. “We had to experiment to figure out what the right way is to make an electric vehicle.”
Scaringe started the company in 2004 in Grand Rapids, Mich., inspired by “much of the technological revolution that happened in the 1990s, but on a far, smaller scale.”
“We were fascinated with the concept of building an affordable electric vehicle,” Scaringe said.
He developed a pod shape, employing folding seats and computer technology. He got the first prototype built by 2007. Two years later, he built a minivan.
And finally, he, Scaringe, and his staff settled on an electric vehicle, a departure from industry norms.
“It’s a technology that’s being beaten to death,” Scaringe said. “We think it could be an innovation to the conventional car business, but we know it’s a huge risk.”
E. Ed Hamm is a correspondent with The Ford Motor Company Wire News.