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Amazon leads $700 million investment into electric pickups

Elon Musk, Gayle King test drive Boring tunnel

Electric carmaker Rivian has landed a $700 million investment in an Amazon-led funding round, it said Friday. It's the second time in two weeks Amazon has put money into alternative vehicles.

Terms of the investment were not disclosed, but the transaction involved unnamed, existing shareholders in addition to Amazon. Founded by Robert "RJ" Scaringe in 2009, Rivian has raised about $1.5 billion in funding to date, according to S&P Capital IQ. It raised about $200 million in debt financing last May.

Rivian said that it will remain an independent company. In recent talks, the carmaker was valued at $1 to $2 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The proceeds will be used to fund production of Rivian's fully electric cars, which it unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November. The company is planning to launch its R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV in late 2020, manufacturing the vehicles in its Normal, Illinois plant.

"RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match," said Jeff Wilke, chief executive officer of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement. "We're thrilled to invest in such an innovative company."

Amazon declined to comment beyond the release.

An increasingly crowded space 

It's the second time in two weeks that the online giant dropped money on alternative vehicles. Amazon last Thursday joined Sequoia and Shell to invest $530 million in self-driving vehicle startup Aurora.

General Motors Co. was also in talks with Rivian just this week, Bloomberg reported. GM was not listed as a shareholder, but the legacy company may yet stake its own claim in Rivian.

Other companies, like Ford Motor Co., Apple and Google are also developing electric vehicles, while Uber and Lyft are looking to raise a fleet of self-driving cars.

"There's a big push by the entire industry to make electric vehicles and there's a lot of competition downstream, so there will be a lot of choices for consumers," said Michael Thomas Staiger, research analyst at Odeon Capital Group.

That means an increasingly crowded space for segment leader Tesla, which has so far dominated the electric-car market. Investors don't seem worried, however. Shares of Tesla remained mostly unchanged Friday, rising just over 1 percent.