Ford axes electric SUV deal with Rivian over CEO departure

Waymo and Ford have struck a deal to collaborate on autonomous driving technology in Southeast Asia. But Ford is no longer working with electric vehicle start-up Rivian on an electric SUV.

Rivian CEO Cam Tchorin said he and Ford CEO Jim Hackett have fallen out.

Hackett, speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, said Ford had no plans to join Rivian’s new electric vehicle. “That’s where the discussion has ended,” Hackett said. He added that the two companies “will not be collaborating with Rivian.”

Ford had a 50 percent stake in Rivian before the CEO resigned earlier this year. Rivian said Ford had the option to buy that stake and stay a full partner, and was in discussions to buy the rest of the company last spring. “That option was turned down by them,” Tchorin said at the conference.

With that move, Ford agreed to explore all new technologies together. A deal with Rivian to build an electric SUV was one of them.

After the fall out, Ford spokesman Mike Levine said in an email that the company remains “on track to launch a family of electric vehicles over the next five years across a variety of segments.” Levine added that the company “remains committed to partnering in important technologies with Rivian” and is still in talks with Rivian on other vehicle segments, including pickup trucks.

Tchorin said Rivian will move on, and focus its efforts on launching the electric R1T SUV. “We’ve decided that we will release our product first,” he said.

The Rivian R1T is a high-performance all-electric SUV that starts at around $60,000, and is capable of traveling more than 700 miles per charge. Tchorin said Rivian is planning to sell 20,000 cars a year.

“Our understanding is they will work together on technologies such as electrification, autonomous driving, and management of robo-taxis. No specific timelines were discussed,” Levine added.

Hackett admitted at the conference that he and Hackett had a difficult time agreeing on Ford’s electric car. He blamed “politics” on his part. “I knew the bureaucracy was going to make it difficult,” he said.

Rivian is building two cars, the R1T, and the R1X. In June, it said it would change its name to NEXT next year and focus on an entirely new product category. Tchorin declined to say whether the Rivian name would stick, but added that the two companies will remain partners “to the end.”

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