Ford’s Rivian alliance put on hold as car industry grapples with EV future

The chief executives of Ford and Rivian, the Chinese-owned US start-up which plans to develop an all-electric sports car, have said the companies are no longer working together.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said in May that the two companies planned to co-develop an electric crossover vehicle in partnership, but after speaking to Fields at the New York auto show on Friday it had become clear that there was “still substantial work ahead” for the companies to reach the agreed agreement.

Fields said the discussions are “not over” and that both companies will remain committed to the EV future.

“We are not giving up on autonomous cars. We need to start acting,” he said, before walking off stage to announce a $1bn investment in connected car technology that will see Ford purchase Chariot, the Boston-based on-demand ride-sharing service, with an aim to “build on their capabilities” in self-driving cars.

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In a separate call with reporters, Rivian CEO Scott Painter said “we remain intent” on developing a crossover for Ford. “I understand the issues [Ford] has,” he said.

Despite the joint effort announced last year, the CEO of Ford said there is a lot of work ahead for the two companies to reach the terms of their agreement. The company is still facing major challenges in their consumer electronics business, car lending, and retirement programs, he said.

“There are still a lot of discussions to be had,” Fields said, and promised more announcements from the companies on the electric vehicle technology for the world’s largest auto company.

Rivian is made up of electric car researchers from Michigan Technological University, engineering company Delphi and China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery. It made headlines in November when it announced it plans to launch a battery-powered sports car by 2020. The company said it will use electric motors to develop its crossover, as well as components from its extensive research and development work, to reduce costs and provide more control over design.

Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, whose transportation technologies division is partnered with Ford, said that while the company has a strong commitment to electrification, improving its sustainability is still a priority. He cited Ford’s move to manufacture new cars at its Detroit Assembly Plant as an example.

“On the EV front, if anything we are on par with a lot of companies. We’ve made great progress. But we are only now seeing the volume, and the same thing applies to engine technology,” he said.

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