Internet retailing giant Amazon has had a profound – and lasting – impact on society. It has changed shopping habits and upset entire industries, in turn having a direct impact on the health of high streets. The positives and negatives of what’s been called ‘the Amazon effect’ are the subject of hundreds of books (seriously, there are loads of them available to buy on, erm, Amazon).

Now the ‘Amazon effect’ could be about to disrupt the automotive industry, thanks to the Seattle-based firm placing an order for 100,000 electric delivery vans. While that might not sound glamorous, some of the specifics of the deal are set to have a lasting impact.

The first notable point is that the order has been placed not with an automotive giant but with Rivian, an American start-up developing its own ‘skateboard’ chassis as the basis for a range of rugged go-anywhere electric vehicles (EVs). Rivian is fast separating itself from a pack of fledging EV companies with its well-formed ideas and an ability to attract an impressive amount of investment from the likes of Ford and Amazon.

Of course, it makes sense for Amazon to place an order with a firm it has a large financial stake in, so this is really a logical extension of its earlier investment. But it’s still significant that Amazon has chosen to invest in a promising small firm rather than go for the security of a supply deal with a proven manufacturer, because it potentially gives it more control over its future supply of delivery vehicles.