A confidential source told Reuters last week that Ford and Volkswagen have reached an agreement in principal that would allow the American automaker to share VW’s new MEB electric car platform. The arrangement is expected to be formalized at a Volkswagen board of directors meeting on July 11.
The German company has said previously it is willing to share its MEB toolkit in order to drive down its unit costs of development. In March, VW head Herbert Diess told the press, “Our Modular Transverse Toolkit proved we are platform experts. Over 100 million of our vehicles are based on that particular platform. With the MEB platform, we are now transferring this successful concept to the electric era and opening it to other car makers. The MEB is to establish itself as the standard for e-mobility. Based on the MEB, we will make individual mobility CO2-neutral, safe, comfortable and accessible to as many people as possible.”
The first company to share the MEB platform will be e.GO, the German electric car startup located in Aaschen headed by Guenther Schuh. Schuh started StreetScooter, which was later sold to Deutsche Post as part of a push to electrify its global delivery fleet. e.GO says it will bring a small EV that sells for about $20,000 to market this year.
Just The Bailout Ford Needs
Ford has been dragging its feet for nearly a decade when it comes to building compelling electric cars, as its senior managers pursued an ostrich strategy of burying their heads in the sand and hoping all this electric car nonsense was just a passing fad that would eventually go away.
Ford and Volkswagen announced back in January they would collaborate on developing electric pickup trucks, delivery vans, and medium duty trucks and there has been speculation ever since then about whether the MEB passenger car chassis would be part of that cooperation package. A Ford spokeswoman told Reuters this week, “Our talks with Volkswagen continue. Discussions have been productive across a number of areas. We’ll share updates as details become more firm.”
Deal Includes Self-Driving Technology
Automakers are facing twin challenges in the automotive marketplace these days. Not only are they struggling to produce electric vehicles, the race to create self driving cars is heating up as well. According to Ars Technica, Volkswagen had been interested in forming a relationship with Aurora, the autonomous driving company started by some of the former top self-driving engineers at Waymo and Tesla. In fact, last year VW is said to have made an offer to buy Aurora that was rebuffed.
Ford is making a hefty investment in Argo AI, another self-driving startup, and it now appears that Volkswagen may get some insights into autonomous driving technology from that partnership. The costs of developing electric vehicles and self-driving capability in parallel are staggering, causing more and more automotive manufacturers to seek partnerships to help spread those costs over a larger number of cars.
It has been said that there will be more changes in the car industry over the next 7 years than in the last 70 years combined. Part of the inevitable changes include a convergence of technologies that will see some companies merge and others disappear from the landscape. After years of dithering by Ford, Volkswagen may have offered it the lifeline it will need to remain relevant in the future.
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