None of these companies have a threatening advantage over the other two

The latest segment to be hit by the electrification bug is pickup trucks. Although some electric firms - Tesla and Rivian - have been into electrification for years, mainstream automakers have also decided to jump in before it gets too late. The Tesla and Rivian war has been on since the two decided to enter the electric pickup truck foray. The two have been approaching the segment differently and have kind of eased into their spaces. Now that Ford is developing an electric powertrain of its own for the F-150, things could get even more exciting. I’ve listed out five possible scenarios that may or may not be hypothetical.

Ford vs. Tesla

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Ford has been ruling the pickup trucks segment for over four decades now and is the undisputed leader here. Companies like GM and Ram have tried their best to trump the Blue Oval, but have come up short. However, it is unlikely that this kind of domination will happen in case of electric trucks.

When you talk about electric vehicles, Tesla is the first name that comes to mind.

The minute Tesla announced its intentions of developing an electric truck, it had announced a war. But I believe the mainstream automakers, especially Ford, didn’t take action at the right time.

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Tesla has announced that its pickup truck will start under $50,000, and also that it can tow up to 300,000 pounds. That’s not a typo. With these credentials, it’s going to be tough for Ford to keep up, irrespective of its legacy. Tesla has been a pioneer in EVs, and it will maintain this stance even in case of pickup trucks. Tesla has also been giving 100-percent into building electric powertrains, unlike Ford which has a variety of six different combustion engines just for the F-150! So, it goes unsaid that Ford does not have the expertise of Tesla when it comes to electric powertrains. The Blue Oval is spending millions of dollars in Research and Development right now, and it won’t be able to contain costs unless it begins volume production.

Tesla vs. Rivian

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I have spoken about this angle in literally every EV piece that even remotely mentions either Tesla, Rivian, or both. To start off, both of them have stayed out of each other’s way, and that is quite a smart move. On one hand, Tesla is focusing on higher towing capacity, reasonable cost, etc.

The Tesla truck, as I mentioned earlier, will start retailing under $50,000 and will allegedly have a towing capacity of 300,000 pounds - ten times more than the so-called Super Duty combustion trucks sold today.

This will be a result of some mind-boggling torque figure that we can’t wait to hear about. The company has not unveiled any official pictures yet, but Musk announced that it will be a "futuristic like cyberpunk, Blade Runner pickup truck” and unlike anything on the market. So, I guess we’re looking at a funky design that will be an attention-seeker. Not to mention the fact that Tesla is known to offer some amazing gizmos and features in its vehicles so, at that price point, you can expect it to blow the competition out of water. Even in terms of autonomy, Tesla has billions of more real-world miles of data when compared to Rivian’s infant steps in the same department.

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! Exterior
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Rivian, on the other hand, has been focusing on performance and lifestyle. Rivian took the world by storm when it announced that it will come with a travel range of 400 miles and can zoom from a standstill to 60 mph in three seconds. If speed thrills you, you know where to look. However, the towing and payload capacity is rated at 11,000 pounds and 1,760 pounds, respectively - that is nowhere close to Musk’s claimed capacity for the Tesla truck. Nevertheless, Rivian is offering some attractive features like an adjustable air suspension that can raise the R1T from 7.9 inches to 14.2 inches with the press of a button, a 15.6-inch touchscreen system on the dashboard, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and Level 3 autonomy, to name a few.

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! Exterior
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The expected starting price of the Rivian R1T will be $35,000-$40,000 more than the Tesla pickup truck's price.

If I were in the market for an electric pickup truck and had the moolah, I would prefer the Rivian R1T over the Tesla truck. But, to each his own. So, in the end, it all comes back to the same point that Rivian and Tesla have established that their customer bases will be different and they can co-exist together.

Rivian vs. Ford

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Now, this is interesting. I’ll start off by stating that Ford has pumped $500 million into Rivian’s R&D. Does this build apprehensions in your head about Ford being the financially stable company? How does Ford benefit from this? Does it get a strong return on investment from the startup at the end of a timeframe, or does this make Ford eligible to use Rivian’s powertrain in its trucks; or any Ford vehicle for that matter? There are too many ifs and buts here. There could have been a fourth contender here as well in the form of the GM. But the American company decided against investing in Rivian at the last minute, which seemed smart at that point, but has left it nowhere.

All we know is that GM is developing an electric truck.

Rivian made a case for itself in the previous scenario, so let’s see what Ford brings to the table when pitted against Rivian.

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! High Resolution Exterior
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When you talk about pickup trucks, ’Ford’ may be an intimidating word. But when you talk about electrified trucks, it’s a different ballgame. A Ford F-150 with an electric powertrain was spotted recently, and it looks similar to the standard F-150. Perhaps, the bodywork was just for testing purposes, but that’s secondary at this point. Rivian has the production-spec truck ready, and Ford is still in developmental stages. Blue Oval needs to launch its truck alongside the Rivian to avoid giving the latter the first-mover advantage. With the way Ford is moving forward, I smell a conspiracy, which leads us to...

Ford Acquires Rivian And Takes On Tesla

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! High Resolution Exterior
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Yep, this is a plausible scenario.

Every competitor in this war has some advantage that the others don't. Ford has the money, Rivian has the technology, but Tesla has both.

So, why not work together and take out Musk from the picture altogether? I mentioned that Tesla and Rivian have accepted their co-existence on some levels, but that does not mean they are not a threat to each other. If I were to use a ’Suits’ analogy, Harvey Specter and Mike Ross were working together to take on William Sutter even though they pretended not be in on it as a team. Everyone’s knows Harvey invested in Mike Ross and they have always been together. Ford is Harvey, Rivian is Mike, and Tesla is Sutter. Can you connect the dots here? And, if Rivian were to work alone and in case it comes down to a duel, I’m afraid Tesla will be the lone survivor. So, this is a win-win for both, Ford and Rivian, to take on Musk’s startup at its own game.

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun!
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Ford is obviously benefitting from that massive investment in Rivian, but how? If you think the powertrain would be shared, it will, but not right away. Both the companies have announced that they will be having a love child on Rivian’s skateboard architecture. However, this won’t be the F-150, and the production for the same has not begun yet. So, there is certainly something else because Ford will not risk its electric truck future waiting for both of them to develop a product together sometime in the future. On the flip side, Ford will be investing $11 billion in developing its electric portfolio. This means $500 million is not that big an investment for the company. So, who says Ford couldn’t acquire Rivian at some point in order to continue reigning as the defending, undisputed champion of the segment?

Rivian And Tesla Collude To Take Out Ford And Live To Fight Another Day

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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A highly unlikely scenario, but it will be the perfect ending to this war drama. Do a cursory reading and you will figure out that Tesla’s market cap is approximately a billion dollars more than Ford’s $40.5 billion. This gap was three billion dollars in 2017, which means Ford is closing in on the gap. If it manages to successfully launch its electric truck at a reasonable price, Tesla is in deep sh*t. Being the impulsive, passionate man that Musk is, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he could work with Rivian to take out Ford. As I’ve established earlier, the two will be selling their trucks at different price points which avoids a price conflict to an extent, but Ford has a presence in all the price brackets. Ford also has a loyal fan base in the trucks segment that will play a major role even in electric trucks. So, Rivian and Tesla colluding to take out Ford may not be the worst idea in the world after all. Remember, this could be a real-world corporate espionage and Rivian is no Mike Ross here.

Who do you think will emerge as the winner when the dust settles? Think hard and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Further reading

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Rivian R1T Pickup.

Ford F-150, Rivian R1T, or Tesla Cybertruck? The Electric Pickup Truck Battle Has Already Begun! Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Tesla Pickup.

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford F-150.

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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