Apr 29, 2020 - Economy & Business

Ford and Rivian scrap joint electric vehicle plan amid coronavirus crisis

Illustration of an electric vehicle charger with a dollar sign.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The economic and logistical toll of the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the rollout of several electric vehicle models, and even canceling one project.

Driving the news: Ford and the EV startup Rivian just scrapped plans to jointly develop a vehicle under the Lincoln brand that would use Rivian's "skateboard" platform.

  • The companies cited the "current environment" in announcing the decision Tuesday.

Why it matters: Automotive News reports that it "appears to be the first announcement of a vehicle cancellation in the U.S. attributed to the crisis."But beyond that cancelation, other product launches and schedules are being delayed as the EVs are caught up in the turmoil that's pushing back various types of cars.

Where it stands: Here are several models affected — or potentially affected — by the crisis.

  • Rivian has pushed production of its upcoming electric pickup and SUVs into the first half of 2021 to complete retooling of an Illinois factory.
  • General Motors told the EV site Electrek that a "refreshed" version of its Chevrolet Bolt has now been pushed into 2022.
  • Via coverage in Electrek and TechCrunch, the production and delivery timeline for Chinese EV startup Byton's M-Byte SUV is now uncertain.
  • Ford said yesterday that the timing of some of this year's product launches, including the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover, could slide, depending on how long its operations are disrupted.
  • The startup Lordstown Motors said last week that production of its Endurance pickup is now slated for January of 2021 instead of late this year.

The big picture: Beyond the immediate delays, the industry's big investments in electrification could be slowed."[We] anticipate many auto companies will cut back on their EV efforts or delay them significantly to address near term cash needs," Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note Tuesday.

  • Meanwhile, the consultancy Wood Mackenzie sees near-term effects on the consumer side, forecasting a 43% drop in global EV sales this year.

But, but, but: Ford, which has invested $500 million in Rivian, said in a statement that its "strategic commitment to Lincoln, Rivian and electrification remains unchanged" and that Lincoln will eventually develop an EV.

  • And more broadly, forces ranging from European emissions rules to China's support for its EV industry to automakers' environmental plans mean the sector's long-term direction hasn't changed.
  • The Wood Mackenzie analysis found that pent-up demand is expected to help a bounce back in sales later in the year, and the future trend is slated to remain upward.

Go deeper: Tesla says it can weather the coronavirus storm

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