Ford and Volkswagen have announced a furthering of their global alliance to include electric vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology in the USA and Europe. Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is the fact that Ford will be the first non-VW-owned manufacturer to utilise the much-heralded MEB, Modular Electric Toolkit, architecture. But it's a two-way street, with VW investing heavily in autonomous technology from the American manufacturer.
Ford's first EV based on the MEB platform is set for a 2023 release and at present is anticipating that it will deliver more than 600,000 MEB-based cars over a six year period in Europe alone. Initially, this will be in the form of a single, high-volume model, however a second Ford model is apparently in discussion.
Of course, money (and the saving thereof) is a major push/pull factor. Volkswagen has already invested $7bn in its MEB platform and no wonder; it's aiming to build over 15 million vehicles based on it in the next decade alone. Ford is also investing heavily in its worldwide EV tech with $11.5bn on the table for its development.
Buying into the MEB platform makes perfect sense for Ford as it will benefit from a ready-to-go solution for Europe, designed by a European manufacturer specifically for European needs and meeting its sustainability targets in the process.
Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess, said: “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.”
The investment isn't all one-way, however. Volkswagen has committed to investing a total of $2.6bn in Ford's autonomous driving tech development company, Argus AI, meaning it will become an equal partner. This isn't just a straight cash transaction, though, with VW amalgamating its Autonomous Intelligent Driving company valued at $1.6bn – including its 200+ employees – with Argus AI. Add in another $1bn capital investment on top and you have the shape of the deal.
In the real world, VW and Ford will work together on the development of Argo AI’s self-driving system (SDS), which is the first with commercial deployment plans for Europe and the USA. Plus, being able to tap into both automakers’ global reach, Argo AI’s platform has the largest potential market spread of any autonomous driving tech to date. Its focus will primarily be on developing AI for ride sharing and goods delivery services in urban environments.
Despite the closer ties between Ford and VW, the companies have independently committed to remaining fiercely competitive in the marketplace.