Already well known for its vast delivery network, Amazon appears to be placing bets on what the future of delivery and transportation will look like.
In separate filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Amazon revealed the size of its stakes in both electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Rivian Automotive and autonomous vehicle startup Aurora Innovation. Both Rivian and Aurora went public in November last year.
Amazon said it now owns 162.1 million shares of Rivian, or 18.1 percent of the outstanding shares, which at Thursday morning stock prices would be valued at approximately $9.75 billion. That would be enough to make the e-commerce giant Rivian’s largest shareholder, according to FactSet data. Amazon first led a $700 million investment round in the EV company in February 2021, and invested more than $1.3 billion combined as of November 2021, according to Rivian’s S-1 filing.
Rivian figures to be in Amazon’s long-term EV plans, with the Seattle-based tech titan already having ordered 100,000 electric vehicles from the company for last-mile package deliveries. Across the pond, Amazon added more than 1,800 EV vans from Mercedes-Benz for its European delivery fleet last year.
Rivian plans to start construction next year on a second U.S. manufacturing facility in Georgia, which is expected to have an annual capacity of 400,000 vehicles and create 7,500 jobs. The auto manufacturer plans to start production at the plant in 2024 building its next generation of vehicles.
Amazon also said it now owns 35.2 million shares, or 5.2 percent, of Aurora Innovation shares. That would make Amazon the third-largest shareholder, according to FactSet, behind Uber’s 46.8 percent ownership and Toyota’s 7.4 percent. While Amazon first invested $530 million in Aurora in 2019, Uber took a 26 percent stake in the business when it sold its self-driving car unit to the company in December 2020.
Pittsburgh-based Aurora is developing the Aurora Driver suite of technologies that can be installed on a vehicle to let it navigate the roads without human input. The startup is offering not only autonomous driving software but also maps of roads that help the software navigate with greater reliability, computing modules and sensors. Aurora has also built its own simulation tools to carry out reliability tests.
Alongside Aurora and Rivian, Amazon has other considerable investments in fulfillment technologies from delivery drones to autonomous delivery robots. In 2020, the e-commerce giant acquired another autonomous driving startup, Zoox, for what was reported as up to $1.2 billion. Zoox is planning to open an engineering office and operations facility to act as a base for its autonomous vehicle testing.
Amazon is also a current partner of another automaker, Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), and will be the first commercial customer for Stellantis’ new Ram ProMaster Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) launching in 2023. Stellantis has provided thousands of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) to Amazon since 2018 to support its last-mile operations in North America and Europe, and the companies say they will be putting thousands of BEV ProMasters on the road every year.
The big investments in new delivery technologies comes as retailers and shipping companies left and right are coping with supply chain disruptions, a trucker crunch, industrial real estate shortages and surging consumer demand for quicker, efficient delivery.
FedEx is currently working with Aurora and medium-and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers PACCAR, running human driver-supervised trucking pilots between Houston and Palmer, Texas, south of Dallas, on Interstate 45. The pilot began in September and completes a nearly 500-mile round trip multiple times per week.
And UPS-backed TuSimple, another autonomous trucking company that went public in 2021, is currently undergoing its own 80-mile tests in Arizona’s Interstate 10. The company successfully completed its first pilot on Dec. 22 without a human in the vehicle.
Amazon also confirmed that it still holds a 20 percent stake in Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), with 14.9 million shares in the provider of aircraft leasing and air cargo transportation. It acquired a 19.5 percent stake in ATSG in 2020 for $132 million, and has the option to increase its share to 40 percent. The operator of midsize cargo aircraft owns of fleet of 112 in-service aircraft, and three charter airlines.
In recent years, Amazon has sought to increase control of all aspects of its delivery services as it expands, including through leasing agreements with ATSG and other air freight operators. While Amazon was flying 80 flights a day in May 2020, this number doubled to 164 per day as of August 2021, according to researchers with DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.
ATSG reports having a “long-standing, strategic customer relationship” with Amazon, which accounted for 30 percent of ATSG’s 2020 revenue. The U.S. Department of Defense comprised 32 percent of the group’s revenue, while DHL took up another 12 percent. ATSG’s cargo airline Air Transport International is one of two airlines that comprise the bulk of Amazon’s six-year-old air fleet (Amazon Air), with the other being Atlas Air. Amazon also ships via two European airlines, Sun Country and ASL Airlines.
The tech titan expects to have a fleet of 85 total aircraft by the end of 2022.