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FULL ARTICLE | EDITORIAL 
Volkswagen Ford strategic van alliance  
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 29th June 2018 15:11:16 GMT
 

VW Crafter production Poland 2017

"Many of today’s automakers will probably readily admit, albeit off the record, that the inevitable transformation from today’s market dominating petrol and diesel powered cars to so-called New Energy Vehicles will probably be a great deal slower than environmentalists would want. And yet, there is one development carmakers’ seem to agree on. In most of Europe’s already heavily polluted inner cities, thanks to already sky-high NOx and particle emissions, the future belongs to electric transport. 

Underground and overground mass-transport systems, plus state-of-the-art electric buses and e-taxis can already cost effectively move millions of people every day. 

The same cannot be said for parcels, goods for city shops, bulky spare parts or furniture on the move for instance. 

Today, well over half of Europe’s population already works and lives in cities. Underlying trend: more growth. 

Vans of all sizes, buoyed for one by today’s on-line shopping boom, illustrate only too well an expanding market with almost prestige sector profits for some.

Today’s light-commercial vehicle market is already a cosy oligopoly. It is dominated by no more than a handful of manufacturers, most of which have flourishing joint-venture deals with same sector rivals. 

The biggest and longest established of these is the one between France’s PSA Group and Fiat. 

It presently embraces almost every conceivable light commercial vehicle up to around 3,500kg gross vehicle weight (GVW). 

Even Mercedes, which ended a long-established Medium-Van joint venture with VW, opted for a new partner on the light end of this business. 

That’s the deal with Renault and a Mercedes-badged version of its Kangoo.

   All change 

The idea that before long there will be both a potentially profitable and continuously expanding market for electric light commercials was topically illustrated only recently by the StreetScooter project

Famously, according to its own account, none of Europe’s van makers were interested, thus tempting Deutsche Post to engineer and build its own. 

Setting alarm bells ringing in autoindustry headquarters, the StreetScooter project took off rapidly. While nothing was spelled out specifically by VW and Ford, the most likely future focus of both partners is a new electric light commercial vehicle platform. 

Their joint press release is notable for what appears to be written between the lines. 

Foremost, that’s a competitive and above all profitable new range of electrically powered light commercials and minibuses. 

Setting in motion the engineering, development and ultimate mass production as a joint venture will result in vast financial savings for both partners.

   Any major high hurdles ahead? 

   Yes. 

If respective VW and Ford past joint-ventures are any guide to the future, and given that neither is known as a good and long-trusted bedfellow, the future of their newly formed strategic alliance is no bed of roses. 

Statistically, second marriages or civil partnerships break up quicker than first ones. Nevertheless, as long as it lasts, a problem shared is a problem halved.
 

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