There’s a lot of news surrounding Rivian right now. The start-up electric vehicle company debut two concepts at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year—the R1S crossover and R1T truck. The elegant design and stout specs turned heads. There, the company said it wanted to bring production versions of both vehicles to market for the 2020 model year. The company then disappeared from the news cycle until earlier this month when rumors circulated General Motors and Amazon were both looking to invest in the company. While Amazon is leading an investment round of $700 million, a GM and Rivian partnership has yet to surface — and the delay may be for legitimate reasons.
Richard Truett at Automotive News wrote a piece that highlights several reasons why a GM and Rivian tie up would not be a good thing. Or, at a minimum send the wrong message. Right now, as Truett points out, the automaker is going through a substantial restructuring, laying off workers and closing plants. Investing millions of dollars into another company is kind of an insult to GM’s own engineers, designers, and factory workers.
“It tells them in part that GM’s management values the work of another company more than that of its own employees,” Truett writes.
Truett suggests taking the money needed for a GM and Rivian partnership and putting it back into the automaker itself. He suggested improving dealership services, marketing its innovative technologies, or infusing Cadillac with cash—which could make sense considering GM announced last month Cadillac would lead the company’s electrification efforts with an all-new electric crossover that’d ride on an all-new scalable EV architecture.
On the other hand, General Motors could take a multi-pronged approach to future electric vehicles. The company could invest in Rivian, riding on the success of a sleek, attractive tech start-up that’s similar to Tesla while tasking its engineers to design an electrified Chevrolet Silverado competitor for the already-in-development electric Ford F-150.
During its 2018 earnings call earlier this month, GM CEO Mary Barra said, “We believe in an all EV future so you’ll have to stay tuned.” It was the perfect non-answer about what GM has planned for its future in regards to its electric vehicles. Trucks are a hot-ticket item right now, along with crossovers and SUVs of all sizes, and with Ford openly developing an electric F-150—the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.—the lack of GM equivalent seems odd. However, that doesn’t mean an electric truck isn’t in development.
GM has said it wants to release 20 new EVs by 2023 with that Cadillac EV spearheading the company’s electrified efforts. However, those vehicles will likely ride on GM’s scalable architecture that’s not conducive to meeting the needs of today’s truck buyers. That’s where GM and Rivian make more sense — the R1T truck has a claimed 11,000-pound towing capacity, a range of 400 miles, and a few neat features not currently available on mainstream pickup trucks. That said, Rivian hasn’t scaled or produced any salable examples of the R1T.
Investing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into a nascent EV company is risky for any company, and any investment in Rivian would be no different.