Ford electric car to be built on VW platform by 2023

Tie-up between Ford and Volkswagen Group grants US firm access to MEB platform, as companies eye autonomous future

Ford will build “at least one high-volume electric vehicle in Europe” using Volkswagen’s MEB electric-car platform, with production set to begin in 2023.

The announcement was made as both parties took equal stakes in the autonomous driving company Argo AI, which both companies set to use its self-driving technology in the future.

It isn’t yet clear what type of electric vehicle Ford will sell using MEB: the platform supports different vehicle sizes, and will underpin everything from the upcoming VW ID.3 hatchback to the Skoda Vision iV SUV and SEAT el-Born.

However, the company expects to build 600,000 units over a six-year period, with a second “all-new” model being discussed. Meanwhile, VW plans to construct more than 10 million electric vehicles using MEB over the next 10 years.

Ford’s Fiesta supermini is the best-selling vehicle in the UK, but while Ford has hybrid versions of its most popular models in the pipeline, it’s lagging behind rivals in the race to develop pure-electric vehicles.

The tie-up doesn’t involve cross-ownership between the two companies, although both Ford and Volkswagen are expected to make significant savings annually as a result of their joint endeavours.

“Scaling our MEB drives down development costs for zero-emissions vehicles, allowing for a broader and faster global adoption of electric vehicles,” said VW CEO Herbert Diess. “This improves the positions of both companies through greater capital efficiency, further growth and improved competitiveness.

“Looking ahead, even more customers and the environment will benefit from Volkswagen’s industry-leading EV architecture. Our global alliance is beginning to demonstrate even greater promise, and we are continuing to look at other areas on which we might collaborate.”

One such area is autonomous technology: Volkswagen says it will invest $2.6 billion in Argo AI, with Ford committing $1 billion to ensure the two firms share a “substantial majority”. The German company plans to purchase $500 million of Ford’s shares over three years, and says the transactions value Argo AI at $7 billion.

The investment will see the autonomous vehicle company focusing on ‘Level-4’ self-driving systems (SDSs), which would allow vehicles to take complete control of driving.

Ford and Volkswagen plan to integrate the technology into their vehicles independently of one another, with ride-sharing and urban goods delivery the target markets at this stage.

“While Ford and Volkswagen remain independent and fiercely competitive in the marketplace, teaming up and working with Argo AI on this important technology allows us to deliver unmatched capability, scale and geographic reach,” said Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett. “Unlocking the synergies across a range of areas allows us to showcase the power of our global alliance in this era of smart vehicles for a smart world.”