By Paul Swiech

NORMAL — A United Auto Workers director said Thursday he’s “looking forward” to jobs returning to Normal after Lincoln Motor Co. announced that it would partner with Rivian Automotive to develop the first fully electric vehicle for luxury automaker.

Lincoln confirmed this week that it’s working with Rivian, which will begin electric vehicle manufacturing in Normal later this year, as part of Ford Motor Co.’s $500 million investment in the electric vehicle manufacturer.

Last year, Rivian and Ford said they would partner to develop a vehicle. The confirmation that the vehicle would be a Lincoln happened this week.

“There are a lot of skilled and talented workers around Normal, Illinois, who will make for an excellent Rivian workforce and build a world-class quality product,” UAW Region 4 Director Ron McInvoy said in a statement.

“Given the UAW’s history in Normal and our history with Ford Motor Company, we look forward to these jobs returning and UAW members having the opportunity once again to organize and form their local union which has meant so much to that community,” McInvoy said. “It’s a great day for our UAW members, UAW retirees and for the surrounding community.”

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said “Our vehicle development partnership with Ford is an exciting opportunity to pair our technology with Lincoln’s vision for innovation and refinement. We are proud to collaborate on Lincoln’s first fully electric vehicle.”

“Working with Rivian marks a pivotal point for Lincoln as we move toward a future that includes fully electric vehicles,” Lincoln President Joy Falotico said in a statement.

Lincoln’s first fully electric vehicle with Rivian will be a sports utility vehicle and will join the Aviator and Corsair Grand Touring plug-in hybrid SUVs.

The Lincoln battery electric vehicle will be built on top of Rivian’s flexible skateboard platform that will be manufactured at its Normal production facility, 100 N. Rivian Motorway.

Lincoln production details were not released this week. Zach Dietmeier, Rivian’s plant communication manager, said Thursday that Rivian would not comment beyond the prepared statements.

Rivian is reconfiguring the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant for electric vehicle manufacturing to begin later this year. About $29.4 million has been invested just in the past several weeks.

Dietmeier told The Pantagraph last week that about 225 people are working at the plant so far. Vehicle production is expected to begin in late 2020 with the R1T pickup truck. Production of the R1S sports utility vehicle will follow several months later.

“We anticipate 1,000 employees when we achieve full production within the next few years,” Dietmeier said.

Lincoln, in recent years, has pivoted to an SUV-heavy lineup. The brand saw sales increase more than 8 percent in 2019 as it transitioned away from sedans.

Rivian received nearly $3 billion in investments last year, including from Ford, Amazon and Cox Automotive.

Rivian and Amazon announced in September that Rivian would build 100,000 electric vans for the e-commerce giant, in addition to Rivian’s planned R1T pickup and R1S SUV.