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Could 2025 Ford Ranger and VW Amarok converge?
VW suggests ‘anything is possible’ out of Ford commercial vehicle joint venture
7 Aug 2018
VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch has fuelled speculation that the recently-announced commercial vehicle joint venture with Ford may eventually include the replacements for the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger, as it explores lower-cost bases for its one-tonne pick-up range.
While it is unlikely to happen before the middle of the next decade owing to the approaching redesigns of both the Amarok and T6 Ranger for 2020 using their existing architectures that date back to 2010 and 2011 respectively, ensuring both models offer the best in safety, performance, refinement and emissions means that partnering up could be more efficient than going it alone again.
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Tiguan Allspace in Melbourne last week, Mr Bartsch said that no option is off the table, including with Ford, which went public back in late June with a brief and deliberately vague statement about upcoming commercial vehicle joint ventures.
“All options are being looked at,” he said. “All avenues are being explored. I think it would be disingenuous of me to say there is nothing going on with Ford, otherwise Ford wouldn’t be making the comments that they are making, but I am not in a position at the moment to say what it may or may not be.
“What I think is very clear is, in order to be competitive in Australia, we have to get the cost base of (Amarok) down. It’s being produced in Argentina and Germany and both of those are high-cost markets for a product that is in the most competitive environment that you can be in.
“Argentina is a problem because of the instability of the currency and Germany is a high-cost source. If we don’t have a trade agreement with the EU that gives a price point that allows us to go head-to-head competitively in the market here, where most of the products we are dealing with are coming out of Thailand and Japan and so on, then we’re always going to be at a competitive disadvantage.
“We’re never going to go head-to-head with the Koreans and Japanese from a pricing point of view, but you always have to ensure that the premium (is within the right context).”
Taking an aim at the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and its obvious relationship with the Nissan Navara (and Renault Alaskan), Mr Bartsch said that any joint venture has to ensure that they conform to each company’s brand values from every possible standpoint.
“If there is a joint venture done, we would do a better job at differentiating the products between the two participants,” he said. “With all the respect I have for Mercedes … I personally think that brands with very definitive cultures and positions in the market be very careful about how they maintain that integrity.”
Finally, Mr Bartsch also took the opportunity to praise Ford Australia’s engineering efforts with the latest Ranger, saying it is a worthy adversary to the Amarok.
Left: Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch
“I think Ford has done a marvellous job with the Ranger,” he enthused. “It’s been extremely well positioned, it resonates with the market, Ford has a wonderful legacy of producing solid commercial vehicles – the F Series (truck) is still the top-selling vehicle in the world – they have very solid credentials. And I think the Raptor is a good product, and I say that as a stand-alone statement. It’s something anybody would be happy to have in their garage.”
Ford and Volkswagen have a long association producing vehicles together, starting with the AutoLatina joint venture in South America involving the Argentinean and Brazilian arms of both companies.
Created in 1987 to weather the economic uncertainty in the region, it involved a number of models spun off the 1981 Volkswagen B2 Passat, 1980 Ford Mk3 Escort and 1990 Ford Mk5 Escort/Orion platforms, resulting in light makeovers known as the Ford Versailles, Volkswagen Apollo and Volkswagen Pointer/Logus respectively.
The two car-makers also cooperated on a separate and moderately successful project in Europe for a range of full-sized people-movers known as the Volkswagen Sharan (1995-2010), Seat Alhambra (1996-2010) and Ford Galaxy (1995-2006). Built in Portugal, it employed mostly Volkswagen Group mechanicals.
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