Ford and Volkswagen have announced that the expansion of their global alliance will include electric vehicles, along with a massive investment in autonomous technology and joint development of commercial vehicles.
The deal allows Ford to make use of the German giant’s MEB modular electric platform for “at least one high-volume fully electric vehicle in Europe”, to launch in 2023. Ford plans to deliver more than 6,00,000 MEB-based vehicles over a 6-year period from 2023, though no specific body style has been confirmed for the first model.
VW CEO Herbert Diess talked about the possibility of a second MEB-based model line for Ford, too, suggesting the next model could almost double the supply of MEB components to Ford.
Volkswagen will supply the platform as well as "battery packs and structural components" to the US brand. Ford will design its own car at its facility in Cologne, Germany, but is yet to announce where it will assemble the model. Ford CEO Jim Hackett, however, confirmed that the facility would be one of its existing European plants.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess claimed the scaling of the MEB platform in this way "drives down development costs for zero-emissions vehicles, allowing for broader and faster adoption," saying: "This improves the position of both companies through greater capital efficiency, further growth, and improved competitiveness". Both manufacturers will continue to explore further joint avenues into electric mobility.
The second major cornerstone in Volkswagen and Ford’s relationship is an investment by the German firm in Argo AI, an autonomous car company that Ford first backed in 2017.
Volkswagen will put forward just under £2.1 billion – including £800 million in direct funding and the transferring of its own Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) company, valued at £1.28bn – as well as purchasing shares from Ford over a 3-year period. This increases the total valuation of Argo AI to more than £5.6bn.
The carmakers claim Argo AI’s self-driving system is the first with commercial deployment plans for Europe and the US. It plans to deliver a Level 4-capable, self-driving system for “ride sharing and goods delivery services in dense urban areas”.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett said: "While Ford and Volkswagen remain independent and fiercely competitive in the marketplace, teaming up and working with Argo AI on this important technology allows us to deliver unmatched capability, scale, and geographic reach".
Both firms also talked about their previously confirmed collaboration to develop commercial vans and pickup trucks together, and expect the demand in these segments to grow over the next five years.
Ford will engineer and build a medium-sized pick-up to be sold by both brands in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and South America from 2022.
The American firm will also be in charge of a large van for European customers in the same year, while Volkswagen will build a "city van for sale in Europe and other select markets". Key models, such as Ford's Transit and Ranger, plus Volkswagen's Transporter and Caddy, will remain in the brands' respective line-ups.
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