"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", Ford CEO and President Jim Hackett said. Until now, Argo AI has operated as a de facto Ford subsidiary, but this investment makes VW an equal partner, with the remaining shares in the company reserved for employee compensation.
The value of VW's contribution to the collaboration is more than $2 billion, including about $1 billion invested, said two industry sources who requested anonymity discussing the deal. VW, meanwhile, has been working on MEB since 2016 and expects to build 15 million cars using the platform in the next decade.
Ford is also gaining access to the electric auto platform Volkswagen is launching next year and will use it to build and sell its own battery-powered model in Europe starting in 2023 as it develops a separate lineup of zero-emissions vehicles for the USA market. This brings the total investments into the autonomous company up to more than $7 billion.
As part of that alliance, Ford will engineer and build medium-sized commercial pickups, to be sold by both manufacturers, and build large commercial vans for European customers, while VW will develop a city van.
Hinrichs said the VW collaboration would not affect Ford's plans to launch two new electric vehicles in the United States, including a battery-powered version of the F-150 pickup and a new Mustang-inspired crossover vehicle that is expected to be called Mach E.
Analysts at Citi said Ford licensing Volkswagen's MEB platform is a "transformational" step. There's no word yet on whether these vehicles will come to the US.
Ford created Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC in 2018, pledging to invest $4 billion until 2023 and has sought outside investors to help share the spiralling cost of developing autonomous vehicles.
The autonomous company has self-driving test fleets of Ford Fusion Hybrids active in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, Miami and Washington D.C.