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The stakes of Ford's $500 million electric vehicle investment

In this illustration, a man and a woman shake hands while wearing business suits, and lighting rods burst from their handshake.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Ford's $500 million investment in EV maker Rivian is a stark sign of how legacy automakers are looking outside their walls to find competitive advantages in the emerging market.

The big picture: It's the latest in a wave of corporate partnerships and joint ventures in the auto industry as big players seek their footing, a topic Axios explored here.

Why it matters: The investment and collaboration deal, which comes in addition to Ford's broader $11 billion in EV-related investments planned over the next few years, could be vital to Ford's future, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

  • Ford's reliance on profits from pickup trucks is the "highest dependency on the segment" among automakers, per Morgan Stanley.
  • That makes Ford "particularly exposed to advancements in commercialized EV technology in the segment that could pose an obsolescence risk to Ford’s core franchise," they wrote.
  • The New York Times reports: "Ford is counting on the partnership to accelerate its efforts to field a range of electric cars and trucks, while it also pushes to streamline operations, slash costs and increase profitability."

What's next: In addition to Ford's equity investment, Ford and Rivian plan to develop an all-new EV of some sort (they didn't provide details) using Rivian's "skateboard" platform, which is engineered to accommodate a range of designs.

  • Rivian is already planning to launch 2 EV models next year, a pickup and an SUV, while Ford is also planning new models including an electric version of its popular F-150 pickup.
  • However, per Quartz, Ford won’t use Rivian’s technology for the electric F-150, because that would delay the 2021 launch date.

The bottom line: "In our view, if there were one global OEM who would benefit the most from the advantage of Rivian’s momentum in EVs, it’s Ford," Morgan Stanley analysts said.

Go deeper: This EV startup for adventurers has a two-part strategy for success