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Rivian and VW play an important part of Ford’s electric vehicle strategy

Last month, as Ford outlined its Ford+ strategy, focused around two new fully electric platforms to debut by 2025, it provided some useful updates on why it still sees partnerships with Volkswagen and Rivian important. 

How do global rival VW and U.S. EV startup Rivian fit in? Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, answered that directly in a Q&A following those recent presentations. 

“In Europe it’s more affordable to partner with Volkswagen for the architecture of our small and mid-size BEVs,” Thai-Tang said. “After all, One Ford taught us that while global scale enables engineering efficiencies, it’s ultimately local scale that delivers significant material cost savings; this is the smarter play here.”

With last month’s announcements Ford confirmed a $1 billion push toward EVs in Europe. Ford announced that it would partner with VW to build an electric vehicle for Europe back in July 2019, when the Mustang Mach-E was still under development. The MEB-based compact EV will be built at its Cologne, Germany, facility starting in 2023. 

Rivian R1T, R1S chassis

Rivian R1T, R1S chassis

Then there’s Rivian. When Ford originally invested in Rivian, it was reported that the partnership would result in a distinct all-electric SUV for Ford—one that would be based on Rivian’s skateboard platform but sold under the Lincoln brand. But Ford later confirmed that development of the Rivian-based Lincoln had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

At that time, the messaging between the two companies wasn’t coordinated; Rivian told Green Car Reports that it still planned to co-develop a vehicle with Ford. 

Rivian R1S

Rivian R1S

Thai-Tang ended a long period of “no comment” on the subject from the company, explaining that each of these partnerships are adding value, but in a different way. “As for Rivian, we’re learning from their perspective as an agile startup,” he said. 

“It’s a strategic partnership,” Thai-Tang explained, still not clarifying whether there were any products involved. “We’re working very closely with their team. They have their heads down with all the products…But we are working in parallel to think about opportunities for us to leverage the learnings there, as well as their products, to help us meet our customer requirements going forward.”

Thai-Tang summed that while there’s nothing to announce at this point, the relationship with Rivian “is a really good one.”

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric powertrain

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric powertrain

Without Rivian, Lincoln will rely on an “elegant” EV based on the Ford Mustang Mach-E confirmed in 2019  by Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America.

Thai-Tang segued directly from discussing Rivian into what he called “perhaps the most revolutionary element of shared technology,” a next-generation tech stack called Blue Oval Intelligence that merges connectivity, the electrical architecture, power distribution, sensor hardware, and onboard computing—keeping input from sensors and actuators separate but centralizing processing (for over-the-air updates), and creating an “always on” functionality.

Does that indicate that Rivian is at all planning to borrow aspects of Ford’s electrical architecture? We’ve reached out to Ford for clarification. 

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