Sometimes, in the middle of a disruptive dust-up that consumes an industry — often pitting Detroit against the West Coast — it's easy to lose track of the mile markers passed along the way.
In 48 hours last week, the new road traveled was remarkable, even historic.
In the time it took to build a few hundred pickups in Michigan, old, stodgy Detroit became a hipster.
Exhibit A: Amazon.
Detroit might not have been good enough in the sweepstakes for Amazon's second headquarters, but Ford sure was a fit.
One day, it was a partnership between Amazon Web Services and Ford for Autonomic's Transportation Mobility Cloud, a collaboration that will be the standard connected-car solution for Ford vehicles.
The next day, Ford disclosed its $500 million investment in Rivian, a darling electric vehicle startup that just two months earlier secured a $700 million investment led by Amazon.
And amid all that, Waymo and American Axle announced a deal that will soon see self-driving Chrysler Pacificas rolling out of a shuttered Detroit factory.
Talk about disruptive. You can put a bullet through the "old Detroit" narrative.
Detroit and the techy West Coast. It was enough to make you forget who was wooing whom.
The Ford, Rivian and Amazon news provided visions of a tantalizing future with big opportunities for all three.
Ford and Rivian had multiple meetings over many months to find that perfect fit, talks that accelerated after a Rivian-General Motors deal fizzled.
For Rivian, the opportunities are obvious. It now has two big partners in Amazon and Ford, and a new ecosystem that will feed itself.
For Detroit, it was a signal that the old way of "not-invented-or-engineered-here" thinking has morphed into "perhaps we don't need to do it alone."
Ford and Rivian will move quickly with shared cost and risk in a sector — EVs — where no one is sure of the volumes. The alliance ensures a fresh set of eyes and minds on the problem of solving electrification for the masses.
The tie-up creates the possibility of new relationships for Ford with the shopping giant as Amazon examines new delivery methods. And Amazon's ambition is real — both as a tech partner and business partner where investment could be shared.
But Detroit and the tech space are truly uniting in automotive relationships. Word is that Ford's Joe Hinrichs, one of the key architects of the Rivian deal, and Rivian founder RJ Scaringe have been working closely together since last summer. They even dined publicly in metro Detroit.
During comments last week, Scaringe praised Hinrichs as a driving force in the deal — a very un-Elon Musk approach to Detroit and its expertise.
But the real beauty rests in what will come. As both companies develop relationships, networks will be formed, and unforeseen links between Detroit and the West Coast will be created.
Technology and auto companies talking this extensively will only build trust. And that will compound. That means data, scale and, ultimately, new customers for both.
When a rumored GM-Rivian deal was in the news, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said: "From an industrial strategy perspective, while many other [traditional automakers] are playing checkers, GM seems to be playing chess."
While we don't yet know what killed the GM-Rivian talks, we do know that Ford is now on the board.
And so is Detroit.