Rivian and Mercedes-Benz announced today that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a joint venture to produce an electric van together.

The deal is still subject to the relevant regulatory clearances, but if it goes through, the two automakers will leverage “an existing Mercedes‑Benz site in Central/Eastern Europe” to build “an all-new electric-only production facility” to produce the electric van in partnership.

The companies wrote in a press release:

The companies envisage production-optimized vehicle designs for efficient manufacturing on common assembly lines. They will aim to produce two large vans, one based on VAN.EA (MB Vans Electric Architecture), the electric-only platform of Mercedes‑Benz Vans, and the other based on the second generation electric-van, Rivian Light Van (RLV) platform. Further options for increased synergies from the joint venture will also be explored.

Now, why would Mercedes-Benz and Rivian partner on this? The answer is of course “synergy”– the buzzword for any partnership, really.

They wrote in a press release that they aim to achieve better cost efficiency together:

By working together, they will be able to leverage operations synergies and substantially increase cost efficiency to help make the vans more affordable for commercial customers driven by total cost of ownership.

RJ Scaringe, Chief Executive Officer of Rivian, commented on the announcement:

Rivian was created to encourage the world to transition away from fossil fuel consumption by creating compelling products and services. We’re delighted to be partnering with Mercedes‑Benz on this project. 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.

Mathias Geisen, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, added:

As a pioneer in the field of locally emission-free transportation Mercedes‑Benz Vans has gained broad experience in producing and launching eVans since 2010. Now we are accelerating the transformation to a fully electric product portfolio. From 2025 onwards, all vans based on our new architecture VAN.EA will be electric-only. 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. We are sharing investments and technology because we also share the same strategic ambition: accelerating the electrification of the van market with sustainable and superior products for our customers.

There’s no clear timeline for the project, but the companies said that they would like to build the new factory within the next few years.

Electrek’s Take

This is an interesting new partnership. Rivian sort of had a similar deal with Ford to build an electric pickup truck in partnership with them, but the automaker rolled that back as Rivian was already quite busy just bringing its own vehicles to market. And Ford decided it was all in on making its own E-Transits and F-150s

Now Rivian is a bit more mature, and it could be a good way for the US automaker to enter the European market.

It sounds like the electric van is going to be a commercial one, like the one it already produces in the US for Amazon.

Generally, I believe that Rivian shouldn’t diversify too much yet as it needs to ramp up R1T and R1S to volume production profitably, and it’s still far from that goal. But in this case, this seems to be a safe move for a first entry in Europe within the next few years.

This of course reminds that in 2018 Tesla was inquiring about doing a JV with Mercedes on Sprinter vans. That obviously never came to fruition with Tesla’s powertrain supply needs more than fulfilled internally.

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