Amazon-backed electric vehicle maker Rivian in talks with ministers over UK factory

An electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer backed by Amazon and Ford is in talks with ministers about building a giant factory in the UK that could include a big state support package.

Sky News has learnt that Rivian, which is also backed by the Ford Motor Company and many of the biggest investors in Silicon Valley, has been in secret negotiations with the British government for weeks about the construction of a plant near Bristol.

The talks are not yet at an advanced stage, and Britain is facing competition from rival proposals from Germany and the Netherlands, according to industry sources.

Any investment decision is likely to be ultimately worth well over £1bn, they added.

If Rivian does opt to build a plant in the UK – which would be its first outside the US – it would represent another major boost to the country’s automotive sector following recent announcements from Nissan and Stellantis, the owner of Vauxhall.

Rivian raised another $2.5bn (£1.8bn) from investors earlier this month, taking the total sum it has raised since 2019 to a gargantuan $10.5bn (£7.5bn).

RJ Scaringe, the company’s founder and chief executive, said the latest capital injection would enable it “to scale new vehicle programmes, expand our domestic facility footprint, and fuel international product rollout”.

Customer deliveries of its R1T electric trucks, which will sell from $67,500 (£48,500), are due to begin in the autumn – although they have faced previous delays.

The talks with ministers are understood to be focused on a facility to manufacture Rivian vehicles, rather than the batteries used to power them, although insiders said that the negotiations were fluid and could yet shift towards a gigafactory.

Several companies are discussing building gigafactories in the UK, reportedly including the South Korean conglomerates LG and Samsung.

Boris Johnson has been briefed on the Rivian discussions and is said to be taking a keen interest in their progress, according to one industry executive.

The nature of a government subsidy package is not yet defined and it was unclear this weekend whether Rivian had yet to make any formal requests for funding or tax breaks from ministers.

Rivian is said to have identified Gravity, a 616-acre campus near Bristol, as one potential site for a new manufacturing plant.

Its existing factory is in Normal, Illinois – which it acquired from Mitsubishi Motors in 2017 – and last week the company confirmed that it was looking for another location in the US to build its vehicles.

The electric vehicle (EV) group is also reported to be preparing to launch an initial public offering in New York as soon as this year that would value it at as much as $70bn (£50.3bn).

That would make it far smaller in market value terms than Tesla, Elon Musk’s EV company, which has a market value of $680bn (£489bn) and has seen its shares more than double during the last year.

Nevertheless, at a valuation north of $50bn, Rivian would be one of the world’s largest publicly traded EV companies.

Its other shareholders include BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, the hedge fund Third Point and Dragoneer Investment Group, a prolific technology investor.

Rivian’s biggest customer to date is Amazon, which has placed an order for 100,000 EV trucks, production of which is scheduled to start this year.

A decision on whether to proceed with a plant in the UK or on the Continent is expected in the next few months.

If it does move ahead in Britain, it would further confound predictions that the country’s automotive sector was headed for terminal decline after Brexit.

Honda’s decision to close its plant in Swindon, announced in 2019, was seen as a major blow to the industry, with Nissan warning that its future investment would be jeopardised if Britain left the trading bloc.

Recent developments involving both the Japanese carmaker and Stellantis have revived hopes of a brighter future for automotive manufacturing in the UK.

The government’s decision to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and hybrid vehicles by 2035 has accelerated the need for a huge shift in manufacturing capability.

There remain significant concerns, though, that the provision of EV charging infrastructure will fail to keep pace with demand.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “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.”

Rivian declined to comment this weekend.

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