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Ford, VW alliance expands to new vehicle types

Shake on it: Volkswagen Group chief executive Herbert Diess (left) and Ford Motor Company president and chief executive Jim Hackett (right) seal the expanded alliance deal with a friendly handshake.

VW’s MEB electric platform to be shared with Ford as alliance also goes self-driving

15 Jul 2019

FORD Motor Company and Volkswagen Group have taken their recently announced alliance a step or two further, confirming that the latter will share its upcoming electric vehicle (EV) platform with the former, while both parties have invested in Argo AI’s self-driving system.
 
The Blue Oval is the first car-maker outside of Volkswagen Group to be given access to the Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) architecture that is set to debut in the ID.3 small hatch due for reveal in September.
 
Ford will use MEB to be create a high-volume full-electric vehicle for sale in Europe, with the new model to be available from 2023 and more than 600,000 sales expected in its first six years. It will be built at the Blue Oval’s plant in Koeln-Merkenich, Germany.
 
A second Europe-only full-electric vehicle is currently under discussion and will come in addition to Ford’s previously announced Mustang-inspired zero-emissions crossover for the continent.
 
“Looking ahead, even more customers and the environment will benefit from Volkswagen’s industry-leading EV architecture. Our global alliance is beginning to demonstrate even greater promise, and we are continuing to look at other areas on which we might collaborate,” said Volkswagen Group chief executive Herbert Diess.
 
“Scaling our MEB drives down development costs for zero-emissions vehicles, allowing for a broader and faster global adoption of electric vehicles. This improves the positions of both companies through greater capital efficiency, further growth and improved competitiveness.”
 
As reported, Volkswagen Group began developing MEB in 2016, with the platform costing about $US7 billion ($A10b). The company alone is planning to build about 15 million vehicles using it in the next decade.
 
Meanwhile, the alliance’s investment in US start-up Argo AI – which is developing a Level 4 self-driving system that is claimed to be the first with commercial deployment plans for Europe and the US – totals more than $US7 billion ($A10b).
 
Specifically, Argo AI is planning to underpin ride-sharing and goods-delivery services in dense urban areas, with Ford and Volkswagen Group to independently integrate its self-driving system into purpose-built vehicles that will support these companies.
 
The investment gives Ford and Volkswagen Group equal individual stakes in Argo AI, although when combined, they have majority ownership of the start-up.
 
The latter’s initial $US2.6 billion ($A3.7b) commitment includes $US1 billion ($A1.4b) in funding and its Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) company that is valued at $US1.6 billion ($A2.3b).
 
AID currently has more than 200 employees, which will join Argo AI’s 500-strong global workforce as part of the deal.
 
The former has been working on similar projects for Volkswagen Group, which will also purchase $US500 million ($A711.1m) worth of Argo AI shares from Ford over three years.
 
The latter previously announced a $US1 billion ($A1.4b) cash commitment to Argo AI, $US600 million ($A853.3m) of which will now be invested.
 
“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,” said Ford Motor Company president and chief executive Jim Hackett.
 
“Unlocking the synergies across a range of areas allows us to showcase the power of our global alliance in this era of smart vehicles for a smart world.”
 
The alliance was announced at the Detroit motor show in January this year, with it originally formed as a commercial-vehicle collaboration, which included a mid-size ute that will head Down Under as early as 2022 as the next-generation Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.

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