The speculation turned out to be dead-on accurate. The Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen are planning their entree into the world of self-driving vehicles in a very big way. They’ve pledged to commit a staggering combined $7 billion in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based startup with more than 500 employees that develops self-driving platform architecture for motor vehicles.
This photo by Ford shows Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess (left) and Ford president Jim Hackett discussing the new deal at its rollout. The agreement calls for Ford to use Volkswagen’s existing architecture for electric vehicles and Wolfsburg’s Modular Electric Toolkit to design and build at least one fully electric vehicle for the European market by 2023. That will an initial step toward Ford using the agreement to develop its own electric vehicles for North American buyers as time unfolds. While the new alliance does not involve cross-ownership by either Ford or Volkswagen, at least part of the objective is to develop new commercial vans – think the Ford Transit – and light trucks for a variety of global markets. Combined, the automakers will become majority shareholders of Argo AI, and Ford expects the pact to let it build at least 600,000 electric vehicles using Volkswagen electric technology – including, Ford conceded, the possibility of an electric Explorer and Mustang for export sales.