Ford raised eyebrows when it invested some US$500m in startup EV firm Rivian, not least of which because the latter's core product - the all-electric R1T - will soon be a competitor for Ford's super-popular F-150 pick-up truck. The investment led most to speculate the brands would join forces on a new electric truck, using Rivian's "skateboard" architecture and Ford's manufacturing know-how to produce a Ford-badged ute.
We also know Ford is working on an all-electric version of its F-150, part of a US$11.5b plan to roll-out 40 electrified vehicles (16 of which will be pure EVs) by 2022. The Rivian investment also fit neatly into that plan.
But according to Ford, the partnership actually won't spawn a new truck, be it an electric F-150 or something else. Instead, expect the Blue Oval to lean on Rivian for expertise in building what will likely become an electric SUV.
"You shouldn't go down the path of assuming it's a pick-up," Ford President and CEO, Jim Hackett, told US outlet MotorTrend.
"At the senior levels (the product is) pretty close (to be finalised). I think a lot of that has been settled, but not ready to talk about."
Part of Rivian's two-strong model line-up, along the R1T truck, is the R1S SUV: a massive three-row, seven-seat electric SUV. Powered by a quad-motor system that delivers 147kW to each wheel, and 14,000Nm in total torque, Rivian says its SUV can clip 160km/h in just 7.0 seconds, and will scream to 100km/h in just over 3.0 seconds.
The specs are impressive, and they've certainly caught Ford's eye, with the auto giant describing Rivian as "special" and confirming it would borrow the EV startup's architecture for future models
"Rivian is a really special thing that's teaching us about merging not only the powertrain, but the architecture that the ECUs and other things connect to," Hackett says.
While Ford is yet to confirm details of its new product, we do know that Rivian will be launching in Australia, with a local debut expected around 18 months after the brand's US launch, currently scheduled for 2020.
"Yes we will have an Australian launch. And I can’t wait to come back to Australia and show this to all of those beautiful people," says Rivian's chief engineer, Brian Gase.