German carmaker giant Volkswagen has inked a partnership with US rival Ford that will focus on developing electric and autonomous vehicles, the CEOs of the two companies announced on Tuesday (15 January).
In a wide-ranging tie-up, the two carmakers will work together on commercial vans and medium-sized pickups for the global market as early as 2022, in order to tap into a rapidly growing electric vehicle market.
VW’s Herbert Diess and Ford’s Jim Hackett confirmed that a memorandum of understanding on investigating “collaboration on autonomous vehicles, mobility services and electric vehicles” has now been signed and will be officially unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show this week.
Diess said that “we love to work together with the Ford guys” and explained that the German brand would be able to access its competitor’s pickup truck platform.
Both CEOs were keen to stress that the alliance does not entail any cross-ownership between the two companies. Instead, it is meant to allow the two car giants to “better compete, innovate and serve customers”.
Volkswagen is still tainted by the spectre of the emissions testing scandal, known as Dieselgate, as the manufacturer was found to have installed so-called defeat devices in its cars, with up to 11 million vehicles affected.
Its efforts in the electro-mobility sector are seen as an attempt to clean up its image, although it has been accused, along with other European carmakers, of taking its business out of Europe.
Last April, VW announced investments of €15 billion in electric and autonomous cars in China by 2022. However, Europe’s largest manufacturers at the same time resisted EU efforts to regulate the sector, citing a lack of demand in the domestic market.
In late December, EU negotiators finally managed to broker a deal on CO2 limits for cars, which include sales targets for electric vehicles. By 2025, 15% of sales will have to be zero or low-emission vehicles (ZLEV). That target will increase to 35% by 2030.
European Parliament lawmakers originally wanted to introduce a penalty system for carmakers that miss those targets but that idea was not adopted in the final agreement.
This week in Strasbourg, the Parliament’s plenary session adopted a resolution on autonomous vehicles by a large margin of 585 votes in favour and only 85 against.
As a result, MEPs are calling on the EU to act faster to keep up with developments in the sector and for more funding to be allocated to research and safety measures.
Resolution author Wim Van de Camp (EPP) said that “Europe has to be innovative, but faster. China and the USA are not waiting.”
The text also added that standards for other forms of transport, such as aircraft and inland shipping, should be developed and that an EU joint undertaking along the lines of Shift2Rail or CleanSky should be considered in order to create an “industry-driven” initiative.