Manufacturing

UK offers road and rail sweeteners in bid to secure £1bn Rivian factory


British ministers have offered a package of incentives, including a new motorway junction and training facilities, in an attempt to secure a £1bn-plus manufacturing plant planned by US electric truckmaker Rivian.

Officials have held talks in recent days with Rivian executives to convince the company of the benefits of locating its factory on the 635-acre Gravity business park near Bridgwater in Somerset, which is being built by developer Salamanca Group, two people familiar with the negotiations said.

The UK faces competition from Serbia and at least one other European country, and a decision may be weeks away, the people said.

The deal would be a boost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s credibility in winning crucial inward investment for the UK, as well as furthering both his ambitions for “levelling up” regions and developing a credible car making industry for the future.

The prime minister is closely involved in the attempts to woo Rivian’s management, according to multiple sources.

The government has indicated that it will offer various infrastructure sweeteners to secure the project: it will build a new exit off the M5 motorway, provide training facilities and reinstate an old rail link that used to go north from the site — once the home of a Royal Ordnance bomb factory.

A computer-generated image of the Gravity business park
A computer-generated image of the Gravity business park © Gravity

The talks are also understood to involve executives from Amazon, which owns a fifth of the US group following its initial public offering last month.

People close to the talks said the UK was also drawing on its “green credentials” to sway the decision, given the importance of carbon-neutral investments to the US business, which is developing electric vehicles including delivery vans for Amazon. The vanmaker was particularly keen to use electric rail links to transport parts and vehicles where possible, two people said.

Rivian’s interest in the UK includes the possibility of both a battery factory and an assembly plant, although a final decision on this has not yet been taken, two people said.

Talks with the government began earlier this year, but were paused while the company completed its IPO, which valued it at more than $100bn. The two sides have yet to formally discuss financial incentives.

Governments across the world are vying to attract new electric-vehicle companies in order to protect their established automotive industries as the sector shifts towards zero-emission vehicles.

While the UK has won significant electric investments from existing manufacturers Nissan, Ford and Stellantis, securing Rivian would be a major boost, making it easier to persuade other start-ups to set up bases in Britain.

Tesla briefly considered the UK for its European plant before settling on Germany, where its plans have been delayed by local bureaucracy.

In an attempt to woo foreign companies, Johnson invited dozens of the world’s biggest investors to a two-day summit in October split across Windsor Castle, Downing Street and London’s Science Museum.

Rivian declined to comment.



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