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Motors

Ford and Volkswagen set to collaborate on EVs

Thursday, 29th November, 2018 8:50am

Ford could be poised to sign an electric-car platform sharing agreement with Volkswagen, as part of an expansion of the recently-inked deal to share development and costs for new commercial vehicles.

It’s all but certain now that the next generations of the Volkswagen Amarok pickup and the Ford Ranger pickup will be developed side-by-side and share a chassis, engines, and possibly even a factory. The same will likely be true for future variants of the Transporter and Transit.

It’s the Transporter that opens up the potential for electric car tech sharing between the two companies.

Next year, Volkswagen will introduce electric versions of both the Caddy and the Transporter. Co-developed with tuning and motorsports company ABT, the e-Caddy will be able to carry a 750kg load for as much as 200km on a single charge, while the e-Transporter will be able to lug 1,050kg for as much as 400km, depending on the battery pack used.

Clearly, if Ford’s commercial lineup is going to dovetail with VW’s, the electric propulsion, and the sharing of that tech, is going to be an important part of the process. Will that spread to passenger cars, though?

As of now, Ford and VW have not said anything about sharing chassis, engines, or electric tech for passenger models, but it’s not being taken off the table.

Speaking to Automotive News, Volkswagen’s chief financial officer, Frank Witter, said: “Whether we might provide access to other brands outside of the VW Group is theoretically possible, but there is no decision.” Which is, pointedly, not a no.

The two biggest barriers will be potential reluctance on VW’s part to share what it reckons is the most advanced passenger car electric setup yet seen. The Volkswagen ID hatchback is a little more than 12 months away from launch, is set to boast a one-charge range of more than 500km, depending on the version, and potentially boasts as much interior space as a Passat in a car the same size and overall shape as a Golf, thanks to the versatility of the MEB electric platform underneath.

Sharing such tech with Ford may be a step too far for VW, as it has spent years, and many billions, developing both MEB and a full range of ID-badged electric models. Much of the expenditure on the cars was guaranteed as part of VW’s various post-Dieselgate deals to invest more in zero-emissions technology.

For its part, Ford is already well advanced on its own electric car tech, although it’s arguably behind Volkswagen in development terms.

We’ve already seen a teaser image of the so-called Mach One concept, due to be unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January.

This will be an all-electric SUV, that supposedly takes styling (and, potentially, dynamic) cues from the Mustang coupe.

Mach One is an internal nickname, lifted from a famous seventies Mustang high-performance model. That’s not all that this electric SUV lifts from the Mustang — a dimly-lit teaser image clearly shows Mustang-esque rear lights, and the kicked-up, squared-off, lip spoiler from the Mustang Fastback.

Created by Ford’s Edison team (a skunkworks operation, told to go off “and deliver truly intuitive and innovative designs”) it has already stirred up controversy.

Many fans of the Mustang are saying that the model’s heritage should not be besmirched by trying to draw comparisons between it and a family-friendly, battery-powered SUV. Ford insiders simply say something along the lines of ‘Mustang sells, SUVs sell, so this should sell well too’.

Ford has promised that it is going to spend some €9 billion restructuring its European operations, but the most significant part of that process may have already taken place. If the deal with Volkswagen extends beyond commercial vehicles and into the passenger car sphere, then it could spell even bigger changes for Ford of Europe than a mere restructuring.

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