Building new cars from scratch is expensive, which is why so many automakers pursue partnerships with one another. A Toyota-Subaru partnership brought the FR-S/86/BRZ to market, and a Toyota-BMW partnership revived the Supra and Z4 simultaneously. Now, Ford and Volkswagen might become big-name buddies.
Volkswagen could share the underpinnings of its future electric vehicles with Ford, Automotive News reports, citing comments from Frank Witter, VW’s CFO, on the automaker’s third-quarter conference call. Witter told journalists that VW is increasingly open to the idea of partnerships, and while nothing is set in stone yet, he called it “possible” that the automaker could open up its MEB platform to future suitors.
This builds on news from June, when Ford and VW announced that the two were in talks about some form of partnership, which could extend to joint vehicle development. At that time, the focus of the conversation was on commercial vehicles like vans and trucks, but electric vehicles could easily enter the fold.
“Our [memorandum of understanding] with VW covers conversations about potential collaborations across a number of areas,” said a Ford spokesperson in an emailed statement. “It is premature to share additional details at this time.” A VW spokesman said the company had nothing to add beyond Mr. Witter’s remarks.
The jewel of VW’s electrification plans is the MEB platform. Developed solely for electric vehicles, the MEB platform is flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of bodies atop the “skateboard” that contains the battery and electric motors. VW has already previewed a variety of cars on MEB, including the I.D. Buzz microbus and the I.D. hatchback, which is about the size of a Golf. The first of VW’s I.D. family of electric vehicles is slated to enter production later this year in Germany at a plant that will build EVs exclusively. It will also build EVs at MEB-specific plants in China, and there are plans to build some in the US, too.
Ford isn’t moving at Volkswagen’s pace, but it has big plans of its own. Ford announced in January that it intends to invest some $11 billion in EVs by 2022, at which point it plans to have 40 electrified (hybrid or electric) models on sale around the world. Perhaps its most well known future EV is the Mustang-inspired crossover, which is estimated to deliver 300 miles of range when it hits the market in 2020.
While Ford seems perfectly content to do its own thing, partnerships could make the process easier. Using an established EV platform could save Ford billions of dollars in bespoke platform development, and VW could help recoup some of its costs by lending its hard work out to The Blue Oval. Keeping development costs low could be reflected in lower vehicle prices when they go on sale, too, making the move to electricity more appealing for buyers on the fence.