Rivian partners with Mercedes-Benz for EV van production in Europe



The joint venture should not immediately involve or impact Rivian’s planned $5B factory in Georgia

Rivian, the upstart electric vehicle company that plans to build a $5 billion factory an hour east of Atlanta, is partnering with Mercedes-Benz to ramp up electric van production in Europe.

The automakers announced a deal Thursday to produce two electric van models, one for each company’s fleet. The companies plan to combine resources, designs and technologies in Europe for “efficient manufacturing on common assembly lines,” according to a news release.

The vehicles include one based on Mercedes-Benz’s VAN.EA, the company’s electric-only platform, and the second generation of Rivian’s electric light van (RLV) platform. European production of those vehicles is expected to begin in a few years as Mercedes-Benz aims to deliver electric-only mid-size and large vans starting in 2025.

“From 2025 onwards, all vans based on our new architecture VAN.EA will be electric-only,” Mathias Geisen, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said in the release. “I am delighted that as part of this transformation we are now joining forces with Rivian — a highly dynamic and inspiring partner with a strong technology position.”

Rivian made waves in Georgia in December by announcing a $5 billion factory along I-20. The company received a $1.5-billion incentive package from state and local authorities to come to Georgia, where the company has said it will employ 7,500. The company’s plans have received pushback from some residents of Walton and Morgan counties, where the plant will be built, including a legal challenge against some of the incentives fueling the deal.

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The partnership with an established automaker comes at a time when Rivian faces multiple financial challenges. The company reported a net loss of $1.7 billion during the second quarter of 2022, triple its reported losses from the same period a year ago before the company went public. Company representatives emphasized they’re on track to build 25,000 vehicles, a mixture of its electric R1T truck, R1S SUV and Amazon delivery vans, this year. The Georgia factory is expected to break ground in September and begin manufacturing by 2024.

Rivian and Mercedes-Benz said their target is to build an electric-only production facility at an existing Mercedes-Benz site “in Central/Eastern Europe,” the release said. A specific location or timeline was not provided.

“Mercedes Benz is one of the world’s best known and respected automotive companies, and we believe that together we will produce truly remarkable electric vans which will not only benefit our customers, but the planet,” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said in the release.

Mercedes-Benz launched its first electric van, the Vito E-CELL, in 2010, and the company’s battery-powered commercial fleet currently includes four vehicles: the eVito Panel Van, the eSprinter, the eVito Tourer and the EQV. The next generation eSprinter will be launched in 2023.

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A note of disclosure

Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also owns about a 4% stake in Rivian and supplies services to the company. Sandy Schwartz, a Cox executive who oversees the AJC, is on Rivian’s board of directors and holds stock personally. He does not take part in the AJC’s coverage of Rivian.