In a world of automotive collaborations, you’d never hazard a guess that Ford and VW would agree to share strategy and resources.
This is the truth which was announced in Detroit this week, with the American and German auto giants agreeing to a close working relationship regarding product delivery by as soon as 2022.
Understood in its broad aims, the agreement is primary a division of expertise and exchange of technology. There are things that each of the partners do better than the other and as both are not in the greatest shape after a testing 2018, Ford and VW have decided to work together. Both companies are dealing with structural issues.
Ford’s passenger car business is collapsing, and VW is still calming the consequences of its share in the diesel emissions scandal. Adding to the individual burden for each company are pressures to produce battery powered vehicles and deliver autonomous driving features.
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To better weather the period of disruption currently being wrought upon the automotive industry, Ford is going to help VW leverage its shareholding in the lucrative bakkie market – whilst the Germans will assist their new American industry ally to build smarter, battery powered, vehicles.
The main anchor of Ford and VW’s agreement is to scale resources for mid-sized bakkies in all markets outside of America – and no, there is little possibility of an Amarok-badged F-150 happening. A more plausible scenario would concern the next-generation Amarok effectively being a Ford Ranger clone. VW is recognising that Ford has credible expertise in building bakkies, as evidence by the sales performance of Ranger in most of the markets where it sells. In South Africa, it remains the only real rival to Toyota’s Hilux.
Ford has a bakkie technology centre located in Melbourne which specialises in anything and everything bakkie related, whereas VW simply does not have a similar technical focus, or centre of excellence, for Amarok.
The first joint-venture products from this Ford/VW collaboration are expected in 2022 and they should be of specific interest to the South African market, as we are one of the bakkie geographies where both Amarok and Ranger are marketed. If Ford is helping VW to build a better next-generation Amarok, what are the Americans getting from their new German partners? Simple: access to one of the most over-engineered automotive platforms ever devised.
Revealed late last year, VW’s invested enormously in its new MEB electric vehicle platform, which features an adjustable wheelbase and two working grades: one for passenger cars and the other for vehicles required to haul loads.
Both Ford and VW do a tidy trade in vans and with costs and threatening city clean air standards possibly making diesel less suitable in future, a battery powered MEB van project makes a lot of sense for any future Transit or T7.
Ford will be responsible for large and medium vans, whilst VW will provide the partnership with a compact city van – the latter most likely featuring electric drive Ford’s passenger vehicles remain largely without any battery-powered strategy and VW’s sharing of the new MEB platform is crucial in enabling the American brand to revitalise its non-bakkie and SUV business.
South African bakkie enthusiasts can keenly anticipated a next generation of Ranger and Amarok which perhaps combine the best of what both brands offer: Ford’s traditional bakkie ruggedness and workability with VW’s car-like bakkie cabin environment and cruising refinement.