Lincoln's first-ever electric vehicle will be built with Rivian

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. plans to partner with Plymouth-based electric-vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC to develop the first-ever fully electric Lincoln.

The SUV would be the product of a $500 million Ford investment in Rivian that was announced less than a year ago. Ford is expected to partner with Rivian on a Ford-branded product, too. The companies have not given a timeline for any products born out of the partnership, but Rivian expects to have its plant in Normal, Illinois running by the end of 2020.

"Working with Rivian marks a pivotal point for Lincoln as we move toward a future that includes fully electric vehicles," Joy Falotico, Lincoln president, said in a statement. "This vehicle will take Quiet Flight to a new place – zero emissions, effortless performance and connected and intuitive technology. It’s going to be stunning."

Lincoln Motor Co. plans to develop its first-ever electric vehicle with Rivian Automotive LLC

Lincoln in recent years has pivoted to an SUV-heavy lineup. The brand saw sales increase more than 8% in 2019 despite a continued transition away from sedans. Of the seven vehicles in Lincoln's lineup, five are either an SUV or a crossover. The automaker plans to end production of the MKZ sedan later this year.

The Lincoln-Rivian vehicle would use Rivian's "skateboard" architecture as the base for the SUV. It would carry Lincoln badging. An all-electric SUV is vital to Lincoln as the brand continues a push to be a flagship brand in the increasingly competitive Chinese market.

The Chinese government backs electric vehicles. Lincoln has found a market hungry for plush SUVs there, too. The automaker currently offers hybrid variants of two of its SUV models.

“Our vehicle development partnership with Ford is an exciting opportunity to pair our technology with Lincoln’s vision for innovation and refinement," RJ Scaringe, Rivian CEO, said in a statement.

Meantime, Rivian closed 2019 with a $1.3 billion investment from a Baltimore investment firm. The company — which has yet to build or sell a vehicle — received  nearly $3 billion in investments last year., Inc. invested $700 million in Rivian earlier this year. Ford later invested $500 million. In September, Cox Automotive said it would invest $350 million.

Amazon and Rivian in September said Rivian would build 100,000 electric vans for the e-commerce giant. The first batch of vans is expected to hit U.S. roadways by 2021, with 10,000 on the road by late 2022. All 100,000 are to be operating in Amazon's fleet by 2030.

Those vans would be built alongside Rivian's planned R1T pickup and R1S SUV. The company says its R1T pickup and R1S SUV will have a 400-mile-plus range, and offer off-road capability. Its base $69,000 model has "frunk" storage behind the grille and a 105-kWh battery. An upscale, $100,000-plus model would increase that to 180 kWh.

Rivian officials have said the vehicles it builds are aimed at off-road and adventure enthusiasts.

Experts have said Rivian needs partnerships and orders from companies like Amazon to fill capacity at the old Mitsubishi plant it's converting in Illinois.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau