Amazon Is Betting Big on Rivian, But It Doesn’t Care About the Electric Trucks

Behind the R1T is a much more consequential EV

The front end of an electric Amazon delivery van built by EV startup Rivian. The so-called Rivian Prime Vans will reportedly hit the streets in 2021 after testing.
Forget the R1T. It's all about the Rivian Prime Van.

If you head over to Rivian’s website, you’ll see two electric vehicles prominently advertised: the R1T, the first official production electric truck that’s been getting mostly rave reviews (MotorTrend called it “the most remarkable pickup we’ve ever driven”), and the R1S, an SUV that will reportedly follow sometime before the end of the year. 

Neither of these are the most important vehicle to Rivian, an electric vehicle startup that’s poised to be the second coming of Tesla. In fact, as Bloomberg reports, the buzzy R1T is currently “taking a back seat” despite having just launched last month after a series of delays.

“Taking a back seat to what?” you may ask. To an electric delivery van being built exclusively for Amazon that Bloomberg writes is internally called the Rivian Prime Van. We’ve reported on Amazon’s investment in Rivian and van orders before, as well as the test models that have been roaming around certain neighborhoods, but this story offers more insight into how much Rivian has to gain, or lose, from being under the thumb of Jeff Bezos. 

It was recently reported that Rivian filed for an initial public offering, hoping to hit the stock market this year. In its Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company noted it had lost $2 billion since the start of 2020. That’s not surprising, given that it is only now beginning to officially sell its vehicles, but it’s a warning sign for investors. Rather, it would be a warning sign — especially considering there have been just 48,390 orders for its R1T and R1S models placed with refundable $1,000 deposits as of September (as Bloomberg notes, Ford has over 150,000 reservations for its electric F-150 Lightning, though those only require a $100 deposit) — except for the fact that Amazon has ordered 100,000 of these vans, and that’s just the start.

“You can safely assume 100,000 vans is not really the objective,” one anonymous source with knowledge of the deal told Bloomberg. “If Amazon really wants to change over their fleet [to electric] — because how else are they going to become carbon neutral — then you can imagine the size of the order and how big it will be.”

For now, as Jeff Bezos noted in a recent tweet, Rivian has yet to deliver on the vans.

The goal is to get 300 Rivian Prime Vans out the door by the new year, and kick off that IPO as well. In other words, if you order a Rivian truck or SUV based off the recent glowing reviews, you can expect to wait a long time — your $70,000 order isn’t as important as Bezos’s billions.

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