Mercedes-Benz and Rivian said on Thursday that they would team up to produce electric trucks in Europe, a rare example of a partnership between a traditional automaker and a new rival.
Mercedes said the two companies will build a factory in Eastern Europe at one of the German company’s sites in the region. Mercedes’ main plant in Eastern Europe is in Kecskemet, Hungary, southeast of Budapest.
Mathias Geisen, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, told reporters on Thursday that Mercedes and Rivian will produce separate products at the plant and market them separately. The main goal of the 50-50 joint venture, he said, is to share production costs. But Mr. Geisen does not rule out that the two companies will share expertise.
With its decades of manufacturing experience, Mercedes can help Rivian overcome the problems it has mass-produced. Rivian, a maker of electric pickups, SUVs and trucks, can supply Mercedes’ battery technology and software.
“If we see that there are good effects for both sides, that is certainly an option, but it is not a must,” Mr. Geisen said.
Aged automakers have joined forces with battery makers as they try to compete with companies like Tesla and Rivian that make nothing but electric vehicles. The partnership between an emerging electric car company and a traditional automaker like Mercedes, which has its roots in the 19th century, is unusual.
Amazon, an investor in Rivian, ordered 100,000 electric trucks from the company, but Rivian has struggled to produce trucks fast enough. Mercedes has said that it wants to make its van ultimately all-electric and won’t introduce any new designs with an internal combustion engine after 2025.
Delivery vehicles are considered well suited to battery power, as they typically travel limited distances during the day and can be recharged at night.
Mr. Geisen said the deal announced on Thursday was a memorandum of understanding and that the two companies still needed to work on the details and sign the contract. The companies said they would start production at the new facility in a few years, without giving a more precise schedule.
The joint venture will focus on Europe, but Mr. Geisen says cooperation in the United States is possible. “We can tell you more as soon as contract negotiations are complete,” he said.