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Johnson Unforeseen Message to Bezos

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Britain will be a good place to build the Rivian electric vehicle plant.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to build Rivian’s next-generation electric vehicles in Britain. In an interview with Bezos early this week, the prime minister stressed the UK’s “fantastic” automotive sector and its skilled workforce.

Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash
Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

The UK government spokesman said on Friday that the prime minister raised the issue of Rivian’s new factory during a meeting with Mr Bezos in New York. It comes when the casino industry has attracted a lot more players in the past year alone. More, the behemoth backed technology company’s success is poised to create thousands of jobs.

The UK’s biggest carmaker, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), and the country’s biggest grocer, Tesco, acquired a stake in US electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive earlier this year. The deal saw Rivian team up with JLR to produce an SUV sold under the latter’s Range Rover brand and Rivian’s wheels used by Tesco in its delivery fleet.

Rivian has one of the strongest portfolios of EV technologies in the industry, including punchy electric powertrains, battery technology and high-tech chassis design. Rivian also has support from powerful American politicians, including Bernie Sanders and Ted Lieu, regarding the US.

Rivian, a Tesla-like electric vehicle maker, has been scouting the UK as a location for a factory that could build as many as 50,000 vehicles a year. Explaining how Britain lacks the presence of an American electric car company despite it being the second-largest market for such vehicles in Europe, Johnson urges Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to move Rivian’s production plant to Britain to capitalise on the nearly £1bn worth of public and private investment pouring into electrifying its supply chain since 2015.

Executives from the EV manufacturer visited the UK earlier this month to evaluate a site near Bristol for a new manufacturing facility. The government refuses to comment on reports that Rivian has been in talks about a potential factory in Britain. But Whitehall sources have told the FT they are “desperate” to persuade Rivian to build its new factory in the UK, arguing that it would send a hugely powerful message about the future of the country’s automotive industry, which has been reliant on foreign investment over the past three decades.

If the company proceeds, the government will provide a substantial state support package for Rivian Automotive to build its first factory in the UK. The US electric carmaker Rivian is to open a new factory in the UK. This comes after a Gravity survey of a 616-acre campus near Bristol as a potential site for a new manufacturing plant. The firm, which is developing a range of battery-powered vehicles, said it had chosen the location after “a thorough search” of potential sites across Europe.

Rivian is holding all options open as the company weighs up whether to build its first factory in the UK. Mr Johnson, who says the UK government has been “very impressed” with the government’s attitude to electric vehicles, urged Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who recently acquired a stake in Rivian, to build the factory in Britain for both economic and head-of-state reasons. Ford, one of the Rivian investors, is yet to ascertain their stand on building the new electric vehicle factory.

To date, the biggest customer for Rivian is Amazon. They recently placed an order for 100 000 EV trucks whose’ production is scheduled to commence this year. This has made electric vehicles uncompetitive on factors other than their impact on the environment; consequently, manufacturers are reluctant to build more. Johnson suggests that the UK government could ease this problem by incentivising motorists to purchase their EV charging systems.

“We believe that letting Rivian build its electric vehicle plant in Britain will help ensure that the country remains at the forefront of automotive design and helps Britain fulfil zero-emission vehicles targets. We also strongly believe that British businesses can form valuable partnerships with Rivian to advance technology and innovation further, supporting many more jobs in the sector,” said the government spokesman.

Amazon, which has invested in hundreds of companies, has a reputation as a corporate partner of choice for large technology companies. The online retailer has invested in startups including Airbnb, Zappos, Blue Apron, Twitch, Slack, Whole Foods Market and many more. Amazon, which also owns Whole Foods and is the world’s largest online retailer, has made a push into electric and self-driving vehicles.

However, Rivian was not immediately available for comment.

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