VW, Ford in talks on autonomous, electric vehicles, report says

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FRANKFURT – Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. are in "exploratory talks" to jointly develop self-propelled and electric vehicles in a far-reaching strategic alliance designed to save companies billions of dollars, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The German and American car manufacturers are expected to give an update on the progress of the talks before the end of the year, said the person who asked not to be identified.

Spokespersons of both car manufacturers only repeat what they said earlier about the companies that work together on the development of commercial vehicles.

"Our (memorandum of understanding) with VW talks about possible partnerships in a number of areas, and it is premature to share additional details right now," said Ford spokesperson Alan Hall.

Automakers worldwide discuss cooperation to share the costs of developing autonomous and electric vehicles. Partnerships on autonomous driving style technology vary by region.

Honda Motor Co. said this month that it would invest $ 2.75 billion and take part in the self-driving vehicle unit of General Motors' Cruise Automation to jointly develop autonomous vehicles for global deployment in racing service fleets.

VW and Ford are under pressure to roll out more EVs in Europe, where the emission regulations will be tightened as a result of Volkswagen's diesel pollution scandal.

Volkswagen CFO Frank Witter on Tuesday said the car manufacturer was open to deeper alliances with external companies, especially in the field of autonomous driving.

Witter said that sharing the carmaker's electric car platform CBG with Ford was theoretically possible, although VW is currently focusing on rolling out the electric vehicle technologies under its own brands.

VW officials have repeatedly stressed that the only way to turn electric cars into a mass product is economies of scale to make them cheaper or cheaper than diesel vehicles.

VW Group is investing € 34 billion in e-mobility and autonomous driving by 2022 and plans to produce 2 million to 3 million fully-batteryed electric cars by 2025. In 2025, the MEB-project of VW already includes 50 billion euros in the purchase of battery cells.

Ford leaders and other sources previously told Reuters that the two car manufacturers were talking about expanding product and technology alliances.

VW and Ford are already part of a joint venture called IONITY with BMW AG and Daimler AG to develop an ultra-fast EV charging station network throughout Europe.

In July, Ford created a separate $ 4 billion unit to house its self-driving vehicle operations and searched for external investors in a move similar to that of GM with Cruise.

Ford said it would then invest $ 4 billion in 2023 in its newly formed Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, including the $ 1 billion it had previously set aside for Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based self-propelled startup that Ford had taken over in 2017.