A couple days ago rumors began circulating that GM was possibly planning to work with Tesla on an electric pickup truck, and another that GM and Amazon was due to invest in electric pickup truck maker Rivian. Part of that news has now been confirmed, with Rivian announcing an investment round that will be led by Amazon, with no news of involvement by GM.
GM is saying it is serious about electric vehicles, and given plans by both Tesla and Ford to start selling electric pickup trucks it is likely GM will need to step up to the plate. The question is whether GM will develop the electric truck in-house, or to outsource the drive train to a third party like GM did with the Chevy Bolt, or to bring in a startup company. GM had the opportunity a couple years ago when Via Motors was using GM vehicles as the basis for a line of plug-in Hybrid trucks and vans.
But, let’s get back to the announcement from Rivian.
The investment round seeks to bring in $700 million. Amazon is named as the lead investor.
Rivian is reiterating that they’ve designed two vehicles, a pickup truck and a van, that will be built on the same “skateboard” chassis, and will be manufactured in the Rivian factory in Normal IL.
Amazon? Don’t they sell books?
Yes, Amazon is a large e-commerce website, owner of Whole Foods, and several other operations. Seems like an unnatural fit for Amazon to invest in an automotive manufacturer, since Amazon is rather unlikely to get into the car or truck sales market. But you have to think of the bigger picture.
Amazon has been making moves towards owning their delivery chain. Amazon has traditionally relied on the postal service, FedEx, and other delivery services, to deliver products to customers. Over the last couple years Amazon has experimented with Amazon-owned delivery vans, and has installed Amazon Lockers in stores across the country. Clearly Amazon wants to own the entire user experience of getting products to their customers, rather than allow another company to own part of that experience.
Hence it is a reasonable assumption that Amazon wants to develop an autonomous delivery vehicle. Instead of having a human drive an Amazon-owned-van to customer houses, Amazon could have a robo-van drive products to customer houses, and not have to pay those pesky humans a salary.
That may be a fanciful pie-in-the-sky idea, but a CNBC article about the Amazon investment notes that Amazon has also invested in Aurora. Aurora develops autonomous vehicle technology, and is staffed by alumni of Waymo and Tesla.
Fans of Doctor Who will remember an episode in November that parodied Amazon. An extremely Amazon-like corporation, Kerblam, had a fleet of autonomous Robots that could teleport themselves anywhere in the galaxy to deliver products. One can easily imagine Amazon doing such a thing if teleporting Robots were technologically possible at this time. Consider that Amazon currently has a service where you hand your house key to Amazon so their delivery agents can, in a creepy/intrusive way, open the door to your home to put packages inside.
Not all commercial users are in Construction
In my earlier posts about Rivian I’ve complained that Rivian is missing the boat. Rivian announced an “Adventure Pickup” that might be driven to the mountains for a ski trip, and otherwise driven around town in someone’s commute. There is a big market of commercial truck users who might like having an electric truck, and the market for commercial trucks is much larger than the “adventure truck” market. The stereotypical commercial truck user is a construction worker, but there are other commercial truck uses.
Delivery trucks are a big area of commercial truck usage. Amazon isn’t the only company with a large fleet of delivery trucks.
RIVIAN ANNOUNCES $700M INVESTMENT ROUND LED BY AMAZON
February 15, 2019 – Rivian has announced an equity investment round of $700M led by Amazon. The investment comes on the heels of Rivian’s reveal of the all-electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show last November.
Starting with a clean sheet, Rivian has developed its vehicles with adventurers at the core of every design and engineering decision. The company’s launch products, the R1T and R1S, deliver up to 400+ miles of range and provide an unmatched combination of performance, off-road capability and utility. These vehicles use the company’s flexible skateboard platform and will be produced at Rivian’s manufacturing plant in Normal, Ill., with customer deliveries expected to start in late 2020.
“This investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility,” said RJ Scaringe, Rivian Founder and CEO. “Beyond simply eliminating compromises that exist around performance, capability and efficiency, we are working to drive innovation across the entire customer experience. Delivering on this vision requires the right partners, and we are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible.”
“We’re inspired by Rivian’s vision for the future of electric transportation,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer. “RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match. We’re thrilled to invest in such an innovative company.”
Rivian will remain an independent company. Amazon is leading the round, which includes participation from existing shareholders. Additional details about this investment are not being disclosed at this time.
Rivian is developing vehicles, technology and services that inspire people to get out and explore the world. With a team of more than 750 people, Rivian has development centers in Plymouth, Mich.; San Jose, Calif.; Irvine, Calif; and Surrey, England; along with a 2.6-million-square-foot manufacturing plant in Normal, Ill. Rivian will launch the R1T and R1S in the US in late 2020, with introduction to other global geographies starting in 2021. Rivian is now accepting preorders on its R1T and R1S. More information is available at www.rivian.com.
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