VW investment vaults Argo into top ranks of self-driving firms

A Ford-VW alliance with Argo could redraw self-driving sector

A press release announcing the news conference says the "companies also will share details of new collaborations also aimed at better serving their customers while improving each company's competitiveness and capital efficiency".

VW will invest $2.6 billion into Argo AI, Ford's self-driving cars venture, and Ford will build an electric auto using VW's MEB electric vehicle platform, the companies said.

Argo AI was formed in 2016 by Bryan Salesky, an early leader in Google's self-driving program, and Peter Rander, who helped pioneer Uber Technologies autonomous efforts, with US$1 billion in backing from Ford.

But this is not a merger or traditional corporate tie-up. The company also invested $500 million in EV pickup startup company Rivian in April, which Hackett says is created to accelerate the automaker's knowledge base on EVs and should be seen separately from product development. The companies said Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett would appear together tomorrow in NY, but provided no additional information in a news release.

Diess said this could be just the start of greater cooperation between the two manufacturers.

Teaming up with its USA peer is one of the key initiatives of VW chief executive officer Herbert Diess to overhaul the German industrial giant.

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Automakers worldwide have been forced to transform quickly in the race to dominate new technologies. One vehicle has already been confirmed and is due to arrive in 2023, and Ford is now studying a second.

Ford (F) CEO Jim Hackett and Volkswagen (VLKAF) CEO Herbert Diess appeared together on Wall Street Friday, building on a growing alliance between the two automakers first announced a year ago.

The autonomous company has self-driving test fleets of Ford Fusion Hybrids active in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, Miami and Washington D.C.

One plus for Ford is the agreement to become the first VW partner to gain access to the German firm's Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) platform, which the company said would allow it to begin delivering 600,000 new electric vehicles in Europe starting in 2023.

Ford already has a large plant in Golcuk, Turkey where it builds the Ford Transit van and a source told Reuters that Volkswagen intends to make use of Ford's production capacity in Turkey, to build a VW van. Ford and VW say they will independently design "purpose-built vehicles to support the distinct people and goods movement initiatives of both companies".

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