DETROIT — The last revolution in the pickup market came just a few years ago with the aluminum-body Ford F-150. Amazon is betting that the next one is already under way.
The retail and technology conglomerate is leading a $700 million round of investment in electric-vehicle startup Rivian, which plans to launch a lineup of all-electric utility vehicles by 2025, starting with a pickup in late 2020.
The investment pulls Amazon a little bit deeper into the auto industry, following close on the heels of a foray into self-driving vehicle technology.
It also bolsters an idea that's driving Rivian and captivating some investors: that pickups, one of the largest product categories in the U.S. light-vehicle market, may represent the industry's best opportunity to perfect and popularize electrified powertrains.
"We believe the next and potentially imminent major product frontier for EVs will be the highly lucrative and U.S.-dominated pickup truck market," wrote Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas in a note to investors last week, following Reuters reports that Rivian was in talks with Amazon and General Motors about an investment that would value the startup at between $1 billion and $2 billion.
Jonas cited the economies of scale that could help bring down the cost of batteries, the form factor and the typical transaction prices of pickups. He also noted the high torque of EVs as a benefit for towing and hauling.