Written by Greg Gardner
Lincoln, Ford F Motor Co.’s luxury brand, has canceled an electric SUV it planned to develop with a technology from Ford’s startup partner Rivian, Automotive News reported Tuesday.
Lincoln and Ford, which has invested more than $500 million in Rivian, will continue to collaborate on other projects, but this specific project was halted due to problems exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given the current environment, Lincoln and Rivian have decided not to pursue development of a fully electric vehicle based on Rivian’s skateboard platform,” according to a statement issued by a Lincoln spokesperson. “This was a decision that was mutually made by Lincoln and Rivian given the rapidly changing environment and after a review of product plans.”
It is unclear exactly how the pandemic affected the project. But the pandemic has set back more than just the production of vehicles. While many salaried engineers have worked remotely during the stay-at-home order in Michigan and other states, progress on future vehicles can be delayed by the inability to work face-to-face with colleagues and suppliers.
Rivian recently announced it will delay the release of its first two vehicles, the R1T pickup truck and the R1S SUV from late this year to early 2021, also citing the pandemic.
Ford made its $500 million investment in the Plymouth, Michigan-based startup in 2019, shortly after Amazon AMZN announced it was putting $700 million into Rivian. Ford also participated in a $1.3 billion fund-raising round for Rivian that was completed in December 2019.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe has been quoted as saying the vehicle under development with Lincoln would be “very different” from Rivian’s R1S model.
Scaringe started the company in 2009 and initially planned to introduce a battery-powered sports car, similar to Tesla TSLA’s Roadster. Rivian then shifted its efforts into trucks and SUVs, operating under the radar until the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show where it unveiled prototypes of the R1T and R1S.
Since then, it has hired about 2,000 workers in Michigan, California and Normal, Illinois, where it plans to assembly vehicles in a former Mitsubishi plant.
Ford is investing $11.5 billion in electrification of new models, including the Mustang Mach-E and an electric version of its best-selling F-150 pickup.
But the future of electric vehicle demand remains highly uncertain as the oil market has collapsed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the Trump administration has moved to ease or eliminate all regulatory incentives for automakers to improve fuel economy or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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