Two months after General Motors (GM) apparently backed out of plans to invest in startup electric vehicle (EV) maker Rivian, Ford is planning to invest $500 million in the Irvine, California-based company. Ford’s cash comes on top of $700 million invested in Rivian in a February funding round led by online retail giant Amazon. Leading up to the February announcement, several industry watchers predicted GM would be a lead funder of the startup, but the nation’s largest automaker stayed silent.

GM’s exit opens the door for Ford to place a member on Rivan’s board – Ford automotive chief Joe Hinrichs – and use Rivian’s skateboard-like EV chassis for a future vehicle. The Rivian chassis underpins that company’s two upcoming vehicles, the R1T electric pickup and R1S electric SUV.

Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe says, “Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with (Ford Chairman) Bill Ford being one of the industry's earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more EVs on the road.”

Rivian has been building buzz in the auto industry since the debut of its pickup last year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Company officials promise that its EVs will deliver more than 400 miles of range per charge while offering 11,000 lb towing capacity and 750hp. The truck and SUV are slated for release late next year.

The company is restarting production at a former Mitsubishi-Chrysler joint-venture plant in Normal, Illinois, that opened in 1988 (Mitsubishi bought out Chrysler’s interest in 1991) and closed in 2015.

The Rivian-derived Ford vehicle will come in addition to the automaker’s $11 billion leap into electrified vehicles that calls for a Mustang-inspired EV crossover next year and an EV F-150 pickup. https://www.ford.com; https://www.rivian.com

Panasonic rethinks future Tesla battery investments

Panasonic will meet 2019 commitments to boost battery capacity output for Tesla, but the company is reconsidering further investments. In 2014, Panasonic and Tesla agreed to produce 35GWh of battery storage capacity annually by the end of 2019, and Panasonic officials say they plan to meet that commitment.

However, the deal called for 50GHw of capacity by the end of 2020, a figure that Panasonic officials are now “studying feasibility of various options.”

The decision won’t hurt Tesla’s ability to grow electric vehicle (EV) sales this year, but it casts doubt on how much EV demand is growing. In the first quarter of this year, Tesla deliveries badly missed expectations.

Tesla officials billed the Panasonic decision as a strategy change.

“There is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated,” Tesla officials say. “We are seeing significant gains from upgrading existing lines to increase output, which allows Tesla and Panasonic to achieve the same output with less spent on new equipment purchases.” https://na.panasonic.com; https://www.tesla.com