Amazon’s billionaire boss — whose rocket startup Blue Origin has been locked in a space race against Musk’s SpaceX — now appears to be chasing Tesla.
Last week, electric pickup truck maker Rivian announced that Amazon was leading a $700 million investment round in the company. That was just days after Amazon backed a $530 million funding round for Aurora, a self-driving tech startup.
While Musk’s Tesla has lately delivered razor-thin profits as it scrambles to bring a mass-market Model 3 sedan to consumers, Bezos appears ready to open his bottomless checkbook in a bid to hijack the industry, insiders said.
The Rivian investment “was a major shot across the bow of Tesla,” Wedbush Securities’ Dan Ives told The Post. “When you look at potential Tesla competitors, Rivian is the one that really stands out.”
In November, Rivian unveiled a fully electric pickup truck and SUV, and said that it plans to put them on the streets by 2020. That was just days after Musk said in an interview he was planning an all-electric pickup with a “futuristic-like cyberpunk ‘Blade Runner’ design.”
Musk — who has promised a Tesla Model Y SUV by 2020, with the pickup to follow sometime after — added that he didn’t care whether people like the Tesla pickup or not.
Meanwhile, the notoriously relentless Bezos is plowing into an increasingly futuristic-looking transportation strategy. Last month, Amazon was spotted using big rigs on the highway, powered by self-driving tech from a startup called Embark. Also in January, Amazon unveiled a beer-cooler-sized robot that promises to drive around neighborhoods delivering small packages.
In December 2016, Amazon created a ruckus when it patented a design for what it called a “flying warehouse” — basically a cargo blimp that deploys a fleet of delivery drones.
According to D.A. Davidson analyst Tom Forte, Amazon is seizing an opportunity to “catch up” in a space that other tech giants have dominated in recent years.
“Because they’re late to the game, they don’t have the ability to start [these projects] from scratch,” Forte said. “While they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to drone and tech-forward delivery initiatives, an argument can be made that they were falling behind on autonomous tech.”
With Apple recently laying off 200 employees from its self-driving car initiative dubbed “Project Titan,” Amazon may have spotted an opening, according to Ives.
In a research note earlier this week, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said EVs are a perfect fit for the “dense networks” and “predictable routes” in Amazon’s distribution network. The Rivian investment, Jonas said, could be “the most significant milestone in EVs” since Tesla went public in 2010.
“Just when it seemed like Tesla’s lead over the competition in EVs couldn’t be any wider … we have Amazon making a bold move right into US-made EVs,” Jonas wrote.