Jeff Bezos is ‘very excited’ about the automotive industry

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told employees he is ‘very excited’ about the automotive industry, a possible hint at the tech giant’s next big play.

It’s hard to imagine that Amazon started off as a small Seattle bookstore. Now it’s considered not just an e-commerce giant, but also a leader in areas such as cloud computing, AI, and the IoT.

One area where Bezos’ firm is yet to make any inroads in the automotive industry.

IHS Markit forecasts global sales of connected cars to reach around 72.5 million by 2023. As for autonomous cars, the analyst expects global sales of self-driving cars to reach 21 million in the year 2035. No wonder Bezos is excited.

“If you think about the auto industry right now, there are so many things going on with Uber-situation, electrification, the connected car — so it’s a fascinating industry,” Bezos said in a meeting with employees. “It’s going to be something very interesting to watch and participate in, and I’m very excited about that whole industry.”

Amazon has made two large investments in self-driving companies – it led a $700 million investment in electric vehicle startup Rivianin February, and was part of a $530 million funding round in Aurora.

Rivian has now raised $1.4 billion so far, including $500 million from Ford in April. In the meeting, Bezos said he was drawn to investing in Rivian due to founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe who he called “incredible” and suited to the task with his decade-long experience in the automotive industry.

“As with most of our major investments, and acquisitions, we’re always looking for mission-driven entrepreneurs — missionaries instead of mercenaries,” Bezos said. “And the guy who leads the company, a guy named R.J., is one of the most missionary entrepreneurs I’ve ever met.”

Aurora, meanwhile, has caught industry attention due to being run by former Google, Tesla, and Uber executives. The company has also caught the attention of investors and is now said to be worth over $2 billion.

While it’s unclear what Amazon is planning in the automotive space, it’s clear that it’s an industry where it has a keen interest. The aforementioned investments pushed Amazon’s ownership stake in private companies above the $1 billion marks last quarter, to almost $1.4 billion.

During the meeting, Bezos didn’t expect cars to become the company’s next major “pillar” anytime soon.

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