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GM and Amazon Consider Investing in Michigan EV Startup

After amazing the industry with its R1T electric pickup truck and R1S electric SUV concepts in November, Michigan-based startup Rivian Automotive is back in the headlines this week. Industry insider sources have leaked rumors that state automotive giant GM and e-commerce and logistics kingpin Amazon may be in talks about investing enough into Rivian to secure a minority stake in the company that puts the value of the startup somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion. Although the rumors are neither confirmed or denied by any of the involved companies, insiders argue that the investment would be beneficial for all involved parties and investing in Rivian correlates with GM and Amazon’s current strategies and recent acquisitions. If a deal is sorted out, experts suggest we could hear the announcement as early as the end of this month.

Although none of the involved companies have released any sort of direct comments regarding the rumored deal, a look at recent investments and strategies implemented by Amazon and GM suggest that having a stake in Rivian’s production and technology would be beneficial to their plans for the future. In an emailed statement which vaguely addresses the rumored deal, GM stated that they “admire Rivian’s contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future.” Further, a deal with Rivian could give GM a future advantage, as the automaker is already one of the top-selling truck producers in the country, as well as one of the most developed automakers in terms of electric vehicles, so a partnership could help GM be the first company to get electric trucks on the road ahead of Tesla, Ford, or another competitor.

Although they declined to comment on the situation, the deal would go hand-in-hand with Amazon’s $530 million funding of self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation Inc. announced recently. Amazon has also been steadily building up the reaches of its logistics network, building warehouses all over the world and making deals with Mercedes, as well as with cargo airlines, to help with delivery of their products. At the very least, an investment in Rivian could promote a cleaner logistics network for the e-commerce giant and/or provide them with a vehicle platform for moving products between departments or facilities.

What is Rivian Automotive?

Rivian Automotive was quietly founded in 2009 by 35-year-old CEO and MIT graduate R.J. Scaringe, and now employs almost 600 people in its offices around the country. Joining Scaringe at Rivian is Mark Vinnels, a former employee of McLaren who now serves as Rivian’s director of engineering, and Rivian’s Vice President of Design, Jeff Hammoud, is an Oakland University graduate and former design chief for Jeep. Currently, Rivian has based its operations in tech-center corridors in California, as well as in Plymouth Township in Michigan and at a former Mitsubishi manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois.

Rivian first showcased its initial two concepts, the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, at the Los Angeles Auto Show back in November, and there has been a constant buzz surrounding the company ever since. The R1T truck is going to be more geared to outdoor fun as opposed to work, but don’t let that discourage you. By using four motors, one for each wheel, the R1T is expected to be able to sprint 0-60 in three seconds or less, have a tow rating of 11,000 pounds, and have some impressive off-road capabilities. Some luxury features coming to the truck will be a powered hood for the front trunk, a gear tunnel in the bed designed to store things like strollers, snowboards, golf bags, etc., and three 110-volt outlets in back can power up and tools or gadgets you might need outdoors- all monitored and protected by anti-theft cameras in back.

According to CEO Scaringe, the Rivian vehicle’s platform is what he calls a “skateboard” platform, which packages the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability from the lower center of gravity. Although they aren’t manufacturing their own batteries, Rivian is doing extensive research on the EV batteries in an effort to understand them better than even the batteries’ manufacturer, and they have been working on perfecting the ultimate cooling system in order to allow for the best performance without any loss of the batteries’ total lifespan. By creating a “double-decker” battery with a cooling layer in between, Rivian promises the ability to handle massive 180-kWh and 135-kWh capacity packs for its vehicles; to put things into perspective, Tesla currently offers 100-kWh batteries. With that being said, the R1T is expected to have a range of up to 450 miles, although time will tell if that’s really a possibility.  The trucks are expected to start hitting pavement in late 2020 with a price tag slightly over $60,000.

Overall, investing in Rivian could be a big power move for both Amazon and GM. The startup certainly has caught the attention of big players in the industry due to its unique-yet-familiar futuristic design and impressive expected vehicle performance. As trucks and SUVs continue to dominate the market, it’s nice to see new options popping up that give consumers the size and versatility they want in a vehicle without as large of a negative impact on the environment. We’ll have to wait and see if any deals can be made and what changes they may bring to the industry in the near future.

At Holbrook Auto Parts, we believe that being as eco-friendly as possible is one of the most important parts of being in the automotive industry. It’s our responsibility as drivers, retailers and manufacturers to reduce the amount of harmful emissions we put into the environment through making and using vehicles, and the best ways to do that is by choosing clean fuel sources such as electricity, and by recycling auto parts and materials whenever possible. Even if you don’t have a flashy new EV, you can still help the environment by disposing of or selling your used auto parts to salvage yards like Holbrook Auto Parts where they can be cleaned, tested, and either resold or properly recycled. By doing so, not only are you reducing your negative impact on the environment, but you’re giving drivers such as yourself the opportunity to save money on their vehicle expenses by providing the option of buying pre-owned parts at a discounted price as opposed to buying expensive new parts.

Images property of Rivian Automotive, taken from their website.

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