Volkswagen Might Put Audi on the Back Burner, Spend More Time With Ford: Report

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

According to sources who spoke to Reuters, Volkswagen Group has more interest in pursuing technological relationships with new partners, especially Ford, than continuing on with Audi as its main development hub. At least for a while.

VW CEO Herbert Diess will reportedly unveil a 10-year plan to his company’s board later this month, part of an efficiency initiative born of diesel fines and the need to stay ahead of rivals. While the move would lessen Audi’s importance in the group, VW would stand to save big on R&D costs. Meanwhile, Ford might get access to VW’s electric vehicle architecture.

“The strategy plan doesn’t only cover the next five years, but looks a decade ahead,” one of the sources said.

The proposal reportedly focuses on — what else? — autonomous and electric vehicle development, which no automaker can be without these days. Ford isn’t the only potential technology partner, but it gets top billing in this report. The two automakers already have a partnership that’s pretty wide-ranging in scope, though neither company has come out and said exactly where the tie-up will take them.

An Audi spokesman told Reuters there’s been no decision made on Audi’s role as the group’s autonomous driving developer. The division rolled out its latest driver-assist features in the new A8 earlier this year.

While autonomy can wait, at least for a bit, electric vehicle are a much more pressing matter in hyper-regulated Europe, as well as markets like China. VW has them almost ready to go; Ford, not so much. The Blue Oval brand took it on the chin in Europe in the last fiscal quarter, and VW’s dedicated MEB electric architecture would provide the company with the basis for a range of potentially profitable small electric cars.

In exchange for this, the sources claim, Ford might provide VW with something it desperately needs: a truck platform, and the engines to go with it. Alternatively, VW might invest in Ford’s self-driving efforts in exchange for the MEB platform.

As both automakers remain tight-lipped about the potential fruits of their partnership, we’re left waiting until VW’s Nov. 16 supervisory board meeting to see what Diess puts on the table.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

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