The U.S. EV newcomer Rivian intends to partner with the oldest automaker in the world to form a joint venture around electric vans—and producing them for Europe. 

In the venture, announced this morning, the two companies plan to share costs around the production of “bespoke large electric vans” for both Mercedes-Benz and Rivian. 

The joint venture would also, “in a few years,” operate a factory for Rivian and Mercedes-Benz Vans, “leveraging an existing Mercedes-Benz site in Central/Eastern Europe.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQV

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQV

There it would make two electric vans for the European market. One will be based on Mercedes’ VAN.EA electric architecture, while the other will be based on the second generation of Rivian’s Light Van platform. 

The new entity might not be limited to electric vans, the announcement appears to suggest, as it says that “further options for increased synergies from the joint venture will also be explored.” That might potentially include joint development, but given the separate platforms, it doesn't appear to be part of the initial agreement.

The companies emphasized cost efficiencies and rapid scaling are the goals of the partnership. Working together will “help make the vans more affordable for commercial customers driven by the cost of ownership,” the press release said. 

The two companies cautioned that the venture is subject to final agreements and regulatory clearances, and more details about the venture–including a name—are all forthcoming. 

Rivian Amazon electric delivery truck

Rivian Amazon electric delivery truck

Rivian has a standing order of up to 100,000 electric vans from Amazon, and it’s producing them in Illinois. It has said it will soon expand availability to commercial customers beyond Amazon.

For Rivian, this may signal a change in legacy-automaker dance partners. Ford has been an investor in Rivian, and as part of a strategic partnership between the two companies in 2019 they aimed to produce a Rivian-based Lincoln electric SUV based on the platform that underpins the R1T and R1S. That model, but not the partnership, was canceled in 2020, while plans were off on co-developed EVs in 2021, as Ford focused on scaling them up internally. 

Rivian is in a very different financial position than another U.S. EV company, Tesla, when it partnered with Mercedes-Benz on several products including powertrain development for the former B-Class Electric. The German automaker once owned nearly a tenth of the California automaker. Tesla CEO Elon Musk at one point said that Mercedes parent Daimler saved Tesla, as it struggled ahead of its IPO.