Rumours about a European plant of the US electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian have been circulating for some time. While a production plant near Bristol in England was previously considered the favourite, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs has now confirmed that talks are being held with Rivian about a very specific location in the country.
This is said to be the VDL Nedcar production plant. Rivian could not only produce its vehicles there, but also take over VDL Nedcar completely. The contract manufacturer currently builds several series for the BMW Group, such as the BMW X1 and three Mini derivatives. However, it is already known that the contracts for the Mini Countryman and BMW X1 will not be renewed and will therefore expire in 2023 – as is known, both series are to be built together in the future at the BMW plant in Leipzig, including the BEV version.
The owner of the plant, the VDL Groep – which also owns the bus manufacturer VDL Bus & Coach – would therefore have to find a new customer to continue employing the 4,500 people at the plant in the province of Limburg – or sell the plant, which is what the rumours surrounding Rivian point to. According to various reports, a Rivian delegation wants to visit the Born plant as early as December.
Fittingly, eMobility start-up Canoo, whose debut model was to be built at this Dutch plant from 2022, has now told the US Securities and Exchange Commission that “Due to developments at VDL Nedcar, the Company does not currently expect to reach a definitive framework agreement/contract manufacturing agreement with VDL Nedcar”.
VDL Nedcar states that it is conducting concrete negotiations with two parties. Unless there is another unknown customer in the race, the Dutch, unlike Canoo, assume that negotiations are still ongoing. After all, the Canoo vehicles were to be assembled on a completely new assembly line. If Rivian does not take over VDL Nedcar completely, but only the assembly lines previously used by BMW, a production of both US start-ups would also be conceivable. It is not yet known where Canoo could locate its production as an alternative.
At Rivian, on the other hand, an alternative has also been under discussion: The company campus ‘Gravity’ near Bristol. According to reports from August, negotiations have been going on here since the summer – but since it would be a completely new facility, Rivian would not be able to take over an existing and well-established plant, including its employees, as in the Netherlands.
The British government has apparently recognised the risk and increased its efforts to attract the company. As “Sky News” writes, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have sent a letter to Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe. In it, Johnson apparently promised that government officials had been instructed to devise a “bespoke incentive package”. Johnson wants to use a “Special Development Order” (SDO), a very rarely used legal instrument, to enable quick planning decisions. The willingness to use the SDO would “reflect the importance of your project to the UK”, Johnson is said to have written to Scaringe, according to Sky News.
However, it is not clear from the report what the scope and measures of the funding package for the US start-up might include. In the summer, it was said that Rivian would invest “well over a billion pounds” (the equivalent of around 1.17 billion euros) in the site if the decision was positive. It is not known what an investment or takeover in the Netherlands would cost.
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