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Amazon, GM in talks to invest in electric pickup maker Rivian: sources

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Rivian founder RJ Scaringe says the company plans to partner outside firms to develop advanced self-driving technology.

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AMAZON.COM Inc and General Motors Co (GM) are in talks to invest in Rivian Automotive LLC in a deal that would value the US electric pickup truck manufacturer at between US$1 billion and US$2 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The deal would give Amazon and GM minority stakes in Rivian, the sources said. It would be a major boost for the Plymouth, Michigan-based startup, which aspires to be the first carmaker to the US consumer market with an electric pickup.

If the negotiations are concluded successfully, a deal could be announced as early as this month, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. There is always a chance that the deal talks could fall through, the sources cautioned.

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"We admire Rivian's contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future," GM said in an e-mailed statement, declining to specifically comment on any talks with Rivian. Amazon and Rivian declined comment.

The Rivian deal would come as its much larger electric car manufacturing rival, Tesla Inc, struggles to stabilise production and deliver consistent profits as it rolls out its flagship Model 3 sedan.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors last August that an electric pickup is "probably my personal favourite for the next product" from the company, though he has spoken only in general about a potential launch, saying that it would happen "right after" Tesla's Model Y, which the company has targeted to start production in 2020.

Rivian intends to begin selling its R1T, the pickup it debuted in November, in the autumn of 2020. The company was founded in 2009 by CEO RJ Scaringe, who has described the Rivian vehicle's platform as a "skateboard" that packages the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability due to a lower centre of gravity.

He has also said the company plans to partner outside firms to develop advanced self-driving technology, rather than try to do so on its own. Big carmakers, including GM, have not jumped into the market for electric pickups thus far.

Rivian's existing financial backers include Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel Co (ALJ), Sumitomo Corp of Americas and Standard Chartered Bank. ALJ has agreed to provide almost US$500 million in funding, Sumitomo invested an undisclosed amount, and Standard Chartered provided debt financing of US$200 million. REUTERS