Outside of Tesla and Detroit’s Big Three legacy automakers, EV startup Rivian has stood as perhaps the most promising auto manufacturer in the US. Sustained largely by cash from big-name investors, including Ford and Amazon, and from a massive deal with Amazon’s Prime delivery service, Rivian only just started trading publicly last November, with an Initial Public Offering of $78 that quickly vanished over the horizon as its share value surged to nearly $180 in a few short days.
Since then, the trading frenzy has died down, and a new threat looms large: those Big Three legacy automakers. Last Thursday, just a day after GM pulled the wraps off of its forthcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV electric pickup truck, and two days after Ford announced it would nearly double F-150 Lightning production yet again, Rivian’s share value slumped to an all-time low. Prices briefly dipped below the EV manufacturer’s $78 IPO for the first time, before rebounding slightly to close above $83 as of this writing. Still, the strength of the legacy automakers’ offerings is clearly having an effect.
The Big Three Spell Big Competition
In a sense, Rivian’s faltering share value is a cliché rehashing of the old David-v-Goliath story. Legacy automakers like Ford and General Motors have well-established nameplates to draw on, plus vast engineering and production resources, more than a century of experience, and loads of capital to throw at most any problem. It’s hard for a startup to compete, especially in such a complex, regulated, manufacturing intensive business – even if that startup is especially well-funded.
And it’s not just the Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EV that are taking a proverbial bite out of Wall Street’s confidence in Rivian, whose R1T electric truck and R1S electric SUV have just started customer deliveries. On the same day that the Silverado EV was revealed, Amazon and Stellantis announced a partnership that will see Stellantis vehicles adopting some Amazon software in the future, as well as Amazon becoming the first commercial customer for the 2023 Ram ProMaster electric delivery van. To our knowledge, that doesn’t affect Amazon’s existing order of 100,000 Rivian-built electric delivery vans through 2030, but it does suggest the EV startup is less critical to Amazon’s carbon-neutral plans than it once was.
That was essentially the take of Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner, according to a report from Reuters. Reuters also quoted Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid, who explained: “Amazon has invested a lot of money in Rivian… That was a key factor for a lot of people in demonstrating this is a viable company that has a product that maybe [sic] relatively unique in the marketplace.”
And there’s nothing to prevent Ford, with its pure-electric E-Transit delivery van arriving this year, or GM, whose BrightDrop electric commercial vehicle business just announced deals with Walmart and FedEx, from further encroaching upon Rivian’s space.