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Ford and Volkswagen appear increasingly unlikely to pull together a deal to work together on battery-electric vehicles, a senior executive with the Detroit automaker said this week.
The two companies announced plans last month to team up on the development of light commercial vehicles and confirmed that other projects were under consideration. It has been widely reported that a key focus was on battery-electric vehicles, a move that could help Ford and VW save billions of dollars by sharing R&D efforts.
But their programs are out of sync, "almost like snowboarding and skiing," Jim Farley, Ford's president of global markets, said Monday during a taping of the local TV show "Autoline Detroit."
Automakers around the world have begun looking for ways to partner with erstwhile rivals in order to address an increasingly challenging environment. Many of these alliances focus on the development of new technologies, such as electrification and autonomous driving, areas in which Ford and Volkswagen aim to take a lead.
But the two carmakers are taking markedly different approaches with their electrification programs, said Stephanie Brinley, principal auto analyst with IHS Markit and a participant in the "Autoline" panel discussion.
"They have two very different strategies," Brinley said, and the "timing issues that just won't mesh."
VW has committed over $50 billion to develop more than 50 pure battery-electric vehicles by 2025. They would be sold through the German automaker's dozen passenger car brands, including Porsche and Audi, as well as the flagship Volkswagen marque.
But the majority of the products will target mainstream markets using a high-volume vehicle platform known as the MEB. "This is meant to be a car for the millions, not millionaires," Matthew Renna, vice president of e-Mobility for Volkswagen's North American Region, said during a media briefing last week at the Chicago Auto Show.
Ford was itself an early proponent of electrification but initially focused on hybrids, plug-in hybrids and relatively short-range battery-electric vehicles. It now plans to introduce its first long-range model in 2020, and then expand its lineup over the course of the coming decade.
While VW is primarily targeting low-cost, passenger car segments with its battery-car program, "Ford's bet is on commercial vehicles and performance vehicles," said Farley.
There is still the possibility they could eventually find common ground, "if we could find platforms where it makes sense," said Farley, but, at least for now, "we're in different timing."
VW declined to comment about Farley's remarks.