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Boris Johnson woos Rivian in bid to bring £1bn electric vehicle factory to UK

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Rivian R1T pickup - BRENDAN MCDERMID/ REUTERS
Rivian R1T pickup - BRENDAN MCDERMID/ REUTERS

Boris Johnson has promised to build a new motorway junction and revive an old rail link as part of a raft of measures to tempt electric truck maker Rivian to base a £1bn factory in the UK.

The Prime Minister has written to Rivian’s chief executive, RJ Scaringe, to convince the company to choose the 635-acre Gravity business park near Bristol as the site for its new manufacturing hub. The Government is said to be facing competition from Serbia and at least one other European country.

Improved transport links to the site including a new motorway junction with the M5 and the reinstatement of an unused rail link to aid in the distribution of parts and raw materials are some of the sweeteners being offered by the Government, the Financial Times reported.

Mr Johnson has also offered that the plan will be expedited by a special development order, which can be used to speed up planning permission in unusual circumstances where government intervention is deemed necessary.

Mr Johnson wrote in a letter seen by Sky News: "The UK's innovation scene is thriving due to the steps my government has taken to invest in the electrification of the automotive sector underpinned by my personal commitment to the industry.”

If Mr Johnson succeeds, it will be a huge coup for the UK automotive sector and will follow commitments from Japanese carmaker Nissan to invest in UK car making and decarbonisation. Nissan pledged earlier this month to put its Sunderland plant at the heart of its European push into electric cars.

The move follows his efforts in lobbying Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to back the deal in a meeting in September, Sky said.

Rivian’s wealthy backers include Amazon and Ford and the 12-year-old company is planning to ramp up production of its pickup trucks and SUVs, markets shunned by its more famous and valuable electric rival, Tesla.

The company listed its shares in New York last month and has a market valuation of $95bn, dwarfing most other automakers including Ford which, despite a strong rally this year, is only worth $81bn.

The UK plans to ban the sale of new diesel and electric cars from 2030 and hybrid models from 2035, a move which will, in common with other countries, create large demand for electric cars and trucks.

Operators of large van fleets, such as logistics and delivery firms are likely to be customers of the company, the letter said.

Rivian’s biggest customer so far is shareholder Amazon, which has ordered 100,000 trucks and the carmaker will begin producing them this year.

Rivian declined to comment.

A Government spokesman said: “The UK is the first country in the G7 to commit to phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and we are committed to ensuring the UK continues to be one of the best locations in the world for automotive manufacturing.”

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