Ford and Volkswagen Group on Wednesday finalized plans for a handful of joint projects first announced by the automakers a year ago.
These include joint development of commercial vehicles, the sharing of a modular EV platform, and co-investment in self-driving technology startup Argo AI.
In the area of commercial vehicles, VW has finally confirmed that its next-generation Amarok mid-size pickup truck due in 2022 will be based on the same platform as the next Ford Ranger due out in 2021.
A teaser sketch for the Amarok, obtained by Motor1, was shown during an investor meeting in March. It reveals a somewhat aggressive look for the new pickup. It also suggests VW will likely stick with the crew cab design of the current Amarok launched in 2010.
Ford will build the Amarok for VW, with the vehicle so far only confirmed for the South American, European and African markets, though both Ford and VW have left the door open to it possibly being sold in the United States. That would mean the Amarok would need to be built in the U.S. to avoid the 25% Chicken Tax on imported trucks, which is a possible outcome considering the next Ranger will be built at the same plant in Michigan where the current Ranger is built. It would make sense for the Amarok and Ranger to share a production line.
2019 Volkswagen Amarok
A trademark filing for the Amarok name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office discovered in 2018 suggests that VW is at least looking at the possibility. Another, less likely alternative is VW building a separate pickup at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The automaker hinted at the possibility with 2018's Atlas Tanoak concept which was based on the same unibody platform as the Atlas SUV already in production in Chattanooga. The last VW pickup sold in the U.S. was the small Rabbit which bowed out in 1984.
The Amarok remains an important nameplate in the VW lineup. The automaker sold 68,010 of them in 2019, though that was down from 88,950 in the previous year.
VW will also build a new commercial vehicle for Ford, in this case a small van based on the Caddy. The small van will likely replace the current Transit Connect in Ford's lineup.
VW will also sell Ford a modular EV platform. The platform is VW's MEB design that debuted in the ID 3. Ford will use the platform for one or more EVs to be sold in Europe, the first of which is due in 2023. Ford estimates it may need as many as 600,000 units of the MEB over a 5-6 year period.
Finally, in the area of self-driving technology, VW has completed its investment in Argo AI so that it and Ford now have equal stakes in the self-driving technology startup. The goal is to develop a safe, robust and reliable self-driving system that Ford and VW can use in mass-produced vehicles to be deployed in fleets offering rides, delivering goods, and potentially other services, specifically in dense, urban centers. The first of these vehicles will appear in 2021, likely in a very limited service. The vehicles will have Level 4 self-driving capabilty. Level 4 means a car can operate without a driver in select conditions, such as being restricted to areas where there is sufficient map data, known as geo-fencing.