Rumors of talks between General Motors and Tesla about some kind of cooperation on a pickup truck have been quietly circulating since last summer, and today they briefly broke out of the forums and onto the pages of CleanTechnica. But within hours of the story, Tesla denied "any such partnership with GM" and Reuters reported that GM was actually in talks with a different EV startup: Rivian.
According to Reuters, both GM and Amazon are in discussions to take minority stakes in the electric pickup and SUV maker and that a deal could be finalized by the end of the year. The negotiations reportedly value Rivian at between one and two billion dollars. Rivian has raised $450 million so far, including a $200 million debt round led by Standard Chartered Bank last May. Rivian's largest investor is the Saudi Arabian automotive conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel, a spokesman for the startup tells The Drive. Sumitomo Corporation of America is another major investor, having bought in back in December of 2017.
The reported investment from GM would be the first from an automotive OEM, raising the possibility of a deeper product- or manufacturing-related partnership. For now, a Rivian spokesman simply says that the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL "is our intended home for Rivian Manufacturing." In a November interview with Automotive News, Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe said the company plans to spend about $150 million on the factory, or about a tenth of what would typically be spent on a new plant. The factory comes with a "very large stamping operation," according to Scaringe, and the company has been in talks with suppliers who could operate the excess stamping capacity. For the moment there's nothing new to report on the product side either, but a reported partnership with Pininfarina suggests that Rivian isn't ruling out technology-sharing partnerships.
With Ford recently revealing plans to release a pure electric version of its F-150 at an undisclosed future date, a GM investment in Rivian might help the startup beat the Blue Oval to market with its R1T electric pickup. GMC Vice President Duncan Aldred has said that he is "considering" an all-electric version of the full-size Sierra, but officially there are no plans. Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that the electric pickup he's been talking about for years could be revealed this summer, and that it will be the next Tesla vehicle produced after the Model Y crossover.
The electric pickup wars may not have actually begun, but the potential players are definitely jostling for position.