Rivian could be entrusted to build an upcoming Ford electric SUV—due within the next few years—at the startup’s former Mitsubishi assembly plant in Normal, Illinois. 

"It would be counterproductive for us to try and make what they have capacity to do in the beginning here, because they've got a factory in Illinois that meets a lot of our criteria," Ford CEO Jim Hackett told MotorTrend, in a story published Tuesday.

That's a departure from what was announced in April, with the formation of a strategic partnership between the two companies. At that time, Ford said that it will build an all-new battery electric vehicle using Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform, and that the companies would develop this next-generation vehicle together.  

Rivian R1T, R1S chassis

Rivian R1T, R1S chassis

The Ford truck project, which is now sounding more like an electric SUV than an electric pickup, will leave much to Rivian. It's due to share all of Rivian’s core components, such as its battery pack, power electronics, electric motors, and electronic architecture, but Ford will develop what sometimes in industry terms is called a top hat—a different or fully differentiated body that fits onto the skateboard, with all the key technical components shared. 

Ford may have a little more influence in Rivian’s platform as it moves toward production, however—and potentially, many more models. The partnership was spearheaded by a $500 million minority investment from Ford, and under that, Ford President of Global Operations Joe Hinrichs was given a seat on the Rivian board. 

Ford emphasized that the deal doesn’t affect its existing $11 billion investment toward electric and electrified vehicles, including the upcoming Mustang-inspired electric crossover, which is due to arrive next year, or work on a fully electric version of the Ford F-150 pickup. 

The Rivian R1T pickup is due to arrive in late 2020, with the R1S SUV to follow in 2021—and the Ford product after that.