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Rivian Backs Out of Mercedes-Benz Electric Van Partnership After 3 Months

Startup all-electric automaker Rivian and the Mercedes-Benz Vans division previously announced a new joint venture to build two new large electric commercial vans for the European market, with an “efficient” manufacturing setup using shared assembly lines in an all-new EV-dedicated factory. Each company’s new van was to be built on distinct platforms, with the stated goal of simplifying manufacturing for both parties, as cozy roommates in their new European facility. However, just a few months later, Rivian has backed out of the deal.

Back in September, the shared release stated there was still some regulatory this-and-that and the final paperwork to be signed, and now the joint venture is going nowhere fast. Rivian has released a statement announcing their joint venture is now on hold. “At this point in time, we believe focusing on our consumer business, as well as our existing commercial business, represent the most attractive near-term opportunities to maximize value for Rivian,” Chief Executive Officer RJ Scaringe said in Rivian’s statement, via Automotive News. Mercedes-Benz cited a “ongoing reprioritization” at Rivian as the cause of the interruption, but it will continue with its vans as planned.

The new van production was set to begin “in a few years” in an “all-new electric-only production facility” that’s located on a site already operated by Mercedes-Benz in Poland. This would have been a great time for them to announce the factory would have a carbon-neutral footprint, or to clearly outline ethical resource acquisition for the raw materials that go into these new EVs, but there was no such detail at this time.

Rivian’s large EV van was to be based on its second-generation Rivian Light Van (RLV) platform (the first generation of which, pictured below, was sold in Rivian’s big deal with Amazon for delivery vehicles in the U.S. ), and Mercedes-Benz will still assemble its large EV van on its Van Electric Architecture (VAN.EA) at the new facility. You can see our conceptual rendering of a Rivian camper van for some idea of what a straightforward R1S-style van could look like above.

No word yet on planned capacity or output, but both companies had planned to rapidly scale production of electric vans. The two companies stated a clear focus of the partnership is to keep costs down, which should translate to a more affordable asking price for the customer, but no pricing specifics were announced.

The recent U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which outlined new rules for federal EV rebates including strict stateside materials-sourcing requirements, would render any EV van either company builds in Europe ineligible for any government incentives if it was shipped over and sold in the U.S., so it doesn’t seem likely we’ll get either of these new vans.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Rivian and Mercedes-Benz could still find a way to produce EV vans on the same platforms in U.S. manufacturing sites , so we may end up getting some sort of variants in a roundabout way one day regardless. Mercedes recently announced a $500 million addition to its Sprinter van plant located in South Carolina, and more U.S. production expansion for both companies is already announced. But first, European domination.

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