Ford, VW signal plan to join forces
Ford and Volkswagen are exploring a proposal for a strategic alliance to share development of several joint projects, including a range of commercial vehicles.
The two automotive giants have released a joint statement saying they had signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate the proposal to work together on potential projects across several areas.
The companies – selling more than 16 million vehicles a year between them – said any such alliance would not involve equity arrangements, such as cross ownership.
The move could have long-term implications for Ford in Australia, where Ford Asia-pacific’s vehicle development operation heads development of one of Ford’s leading global commercial vehicles, the Ranger.
Australian engineers have also worked on the Chinese market version of Ford’s Transit van.
However, Ford Australia communications manager Jasmine Mobarek said it was too early to speculate on any effects such an arrangement could have.
“Our memorandum of understanding covers conversations about potential collaborations across a number of areas,” she said.
“For instance, we are exploring how and whether to collaborate on a range of commercial vehicles for customers. It is premature to share additional details at this time.”
Released simultaneously in Detroit and Wolfsburg, the statement indicates the prime reason for such a collaboration was to cut costs and strengthen each other’s competitiveness.
Most pundits believe that any such deal would start with commercial vans, including the joint development of electrified powertrains and autonomous control for a new generation of cargo luggers.
Ford and VW both have successful van ranges, with Ford’s Transit family and VW’S Caddy, Transporter and Crafter all among the top-sellers in several markets.
However, with increasing competition from South Korea and China, the two companies clearly feel they need to cut costs in the development phase to maintain their competitiveness.
Ford global markets president Jim Farley said Ford was committed to improving fitness as a business and leveraging adaptive business models – which include working with partners to improve effectiveness and efficiency.
“This potential alliance with the Volkswagen Group is another example of how we can become more fit as a business, while creating a winning global product portfolio and extending our capabilities,” he said.
“We look forward to exploring with the Volkswagen team how we might work together to better serve the evolving needs of commercial vehicle customers – and much more.”
Volkswagen’s head of group strategy, Thomas Sedran said markets and customer demand were changing at an incredible speed.
“Both companies have strong and complementary positions in different commercial vehicle segments already,” he said.
“To adapt to the challenging environment, it is of utmost importance to gain flexibility through alliances.
“This is a core element of our Volkswagen Group Strategy 2025.
“The potential industrial co-operation with Ford is seen as an opportunity to improve competitiveness of both companies globally.”
The companies have promised to provide updates and additional details as talks progress.
In Australia, Ford Asia-pacific designers and engineers are working on the next-generation Ranger, along with its passenger spin-offs, the Everest and Bronco.
So far, there is no suggestion that the Ranger and Volkswagen’s Argentinian-built equivalent, the Amarok, will be joined at the hip in a future development.
It is possible, however, that the two companies could contribute various aspects to a future pick-up.
IN THE VAN: Ford and Volkswagen vans might one day come from the same base under a proposal for a strategic alliance now being negotiated by the two motor companies.