Lincoln's EV Project With Startup Rivian Falls Victim To Coronavirus

Lincoln's first electric vehicle won't happen with Rivian after all.

Lincoln

Michigan-based electric vehicle startup Rivian made waves in late January when its CEO confirmed it would build Lincoln's first-ever battery electric luxury SUV as part of an ongoing partnership with Ford. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic hammered the world's economy. Now, that project is off the table, and it appears to be the first known vehicle North American cancellation related to the outbreak.

A spokeswoman for Rivian confirmed to The Drive that the joint Rivian-Lincoln SUV is now canceled. "We’re excited about the future of our partnership with Lincoln and Ford," spokeswoman Amy Mast said. "Right now, we’re focusing on executing our existing programs." The news was first broken by Automotive News this afternoon.

While it wasn't explicitly stated by either company, the move was most likely a cost-saving one. Every automaker is suffering from plummeting new vehicle sales, global factory disruptions, and a very uncertain financial future. 

“Given the current environment, Lincoln and Rivian have decided not to pursue the development of a fully electric vehicle based on Rivian’s skateboard platform. Our strategic commitment to Lincoln, Rivian and electrification remains unchanged and Lincoln’s future plans will include an all-electric vehicle,” a Lincoln official told The Verge.

The news of the vehicle's cancelation comes on the very same day that a Car and Driver report surfaced that claimed the vehicle would be called the Lincoln Mark E. ("The C/D story was a delightful coincidence," Mast said.)

Almost exactly a year ago, Ford and Rivian—a new company founded and headed by CEO RJ Scaringe that took the world by storm with its R1T pickup and R1S SUV—announced a $500 million partnership to build vehicles on Rivian's innovative EV "skateboard" platform. These vehicles would use an architecture different from Ford's own upcoming all-electric F-150 pickup truck. It later emerged that the first byproduct of this relationship was to be the electric Lincoln SUV, which Car and Driver said might have an electric motor at each wheel and more than 700 horsepower. 

Interestingly, back in January, Scaringe said the Lincoln SUV's development was "already finished," though its release timeline was unclear. Since it was that far along, it's possible we could see some of its technology resurface on other vehicles. 

It's an unfortunate outcome for Lincoln, Ford's often-troubled luxury brand, and one that potentially puts it behind luxury marques that are full steam ahead on electrification. A General Motors official told The Drive last week that the economic downturn will have no effect on its EV development, for instance. 

But given Ford's financial challenges, and its own ventures into the EV space with the new F-150 and Mustang Mach E, if something had to give it's not surprising it was Lincoln's big SUV.