Rivian Automotive has been in discussions with UK ministers about building the first factory outside of the United States to produce their all-electric vehicles. The news broke on Saturday by Sky News whose source claims Rivian has been in “secret negotiations” with ministers from the British government regarding a potential factory site near Bristol.

An investment by the start-up carmaker would likely be worth in excess of $1.3 billion US. Any deal to build a factory would be seen as a massive success for both Rivian and the UK’s automotive sector. While expansion for Rivian would help them gain traction into international markets, the UK would stand to gain even more with a burgeoning auto sector including jobs and tax revenue. Both Nissan and Stellantis have made commitments recently to the UK.

Upon requesting comment from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Reuters was stonewalled. BEIS replied in an emailed statement, “While we are working to attract inward investment into the UK to accelerate the growth of new industries, we cannot comment on speculation about individual investments”

The deal to build a Rivian plant is far from a sure thing. It’s reported that both Germany and the Netherlands are competing for Rivian’s investment. It seems that founder RJ Scaringe was referring to an international expansion in some capacity when he recently commented that the latest round of funding from capital investors would enable the carmaker “to scale new vehicle programs, expand our domestic facility footprint, and fuel international product rollout.”

The latest investment round generated another $2.5 billion in capital.

Solid position in market

Among SPAC-backed EV builders, Rivian appears to be leading the way. They’ve secured two major partnerships that have set them above competitors looking to get vehicles to market. Amazon is perhaps the most influential partnership, having placed an order for 100,000 vehicles from Rivian in their bid to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint. Ford has also partnered with Rivian both financially and practically. Lincoln will build an EV model that uses Rivian’s skateboard platform to power it.

Yet to deliver to the public

Talks of expanding into another continent might raise some interest from buyers waiting on their Rivian R1T pickup or R1S SUV. Deliveries for the all-electric pickup were slated to commence earlier this year and had been pushed back to July. However, the chip shortage and other pandemic factors caught up with Rivian – as they did with all carmakers domestic and abroad – and they’ve delayed deliveries for R1T orders until September of this year.

Rivian’s ability to produce and deliver their EVs will be closely watched by the auto industry. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has previously tweeted a sentiment that echoes across the auto industry: “Prototypes are easy, production is hard.”

He said in Tesla’s Q2 financial review that manufacturing electric vehicles is “insanely difficult. Those who have not actually been involved in manufacturing just have no idea how painful and difficult it is. It’s like you got to eat a lot of glass.”

Rivian’s ability to become a leading producer in EVs hinges on being able to deliver their vehicles to the market while being profitable, whether that’s in the United States or abroad.

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