Ford Doesn't Want to Drag Out its European EV Partnership With Volkswagen

The American automaker plans to go its own way after launching two Volkswagen-based EVs for Europe.

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A European-market Ford Mustang Mach-E charges in a city, in a promotional image from Ford.
Image: Ford

Ford and Volkswagen’s many fruitful years of partnership already appear to be winding down, the class action trial over Elon Musk’s infamous tweet kicks off today and Renault and Nissan continue to go through it. All that and more in this Tuesday edition of The Morning Shift for January 17, 2023.

1st Gear: That Lasted Long

Ford and Volkswagen were supposed to be seeing a lot more of each other this decade, between Ford’s use of VW’s MEB platform for European EVs and the two companies’ joint venture in Argo AI. Argo went south months ago, and now after just two cars slated to launch, Ford has already decided it doesn’t need the help going forward.

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The story comes from Germany’s Automobilwoche via Automotive News. MEB supposedly saved Ford two years’ of development work, so it’s not like Dearborn got nothing out of the collaboration. We haven’t seen either of the VW-based EVs in full — one was only teased last month — but the first should debut in March.

The first MEB-based Ford EV will be unveiled in March and will be similar in size to the VW ID4 crossover. Ford describes the second EV as a “sport crossover.” It will go into production next year in Cologne.

Ford also plans to convert its plant in Valencia, Spain, to build software-defined EVs on a new electric architecture, beginning later this decade. The plant currently builds the Kuga compact crossover, and the Galaxy and S-Max large minivans.

The new electric cars EVs built in Valencia will not use VW’s MEB architecture.

“We will use a pure electric platform in Valencia. At the moment, however, it is still open as to when this will happen and which models we will build there,” [Martin] Sanders [Ford’s e-car development manager in Europe] said.

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In addition to the Valencia plant, Ford’s Cologne, Germany, factory — formerly the home of the Fiesta — will be converted to pump out these MEB cars. It may have been a short-lived partnership, but much like Honda’s tie-up with GM for the Ultium-based Prologue and Acura ZDX, it’s necessary to give Ford a stable footing in a market where it doesn’t have a range of electrified offerings yet. The Mach-E’s performed well in the region so far, but the F-150 Lightning obviously isn’t going to cut it there.

2nd Gear: ‘Funding Secured’

Remember that tweet from August 2018 in which Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he was considering taking Tesla private for a weed joke? You can’t just say things like that, or else the Securities and Exchange Commission gets mad and your shareholders sue you. Musk settled with the SEC back in 2018, but the class action lawsuit is set to kick off today in San Francisco. Courtesy The Washington Post:

Shareholders are suing the Tesla CEO under federal securities law over his 2018 tweets, which they allege were false and misleading statements that caused them financial harm and losses. The court has already deemed the tweets to be “untrue.” The investors seek to hold him and Tesla’s board members liable for damages.[...]Musk has defended himself over claims his tweets were false, saying last year that he did have funding lined up at the time — from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which Musk said had “committed unequivocally” to taking Tesla private. At that time, Musk had already settled with the SEC over the matter, paid a $20 million fine and relinquished his board chairmanship of Tesla, which paid a $20 million fine of its own.The court in the shareholder suit has instructed jurors to assume Musk’s declarations of “Funding secured” and “Investor support is confirmed” are untrue.The suit, initially brought in 2018, is a class action from Tesla investors alleging they lost huge sums of money after Tesla’s stock price soared and fell following the “Funding secured” tweet and the SEC’s subsequent investigation.The surge in the share price cost Tesla short sellers hundreds of millions of dollars “when they were forced thereafter to cover their positions by purchasing Tesla securities at artificially inflated prices,” read the initial 2018 complaint.

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Musk requested that the case be tried in Texas, rather than San Francisco, because he recently threw about 3,700 San Franciscans into unemployment since taking over Twitter. He didn’t get his wish. This one should be fun to watch.

3rd Gear: Renault Remains Consistent

2022 marked the fourth consecutive year of sliding sales for the French automaker. That sounds bad but not terrible, until you consider that this data excludes Russia. From Reuters:

The Renault group on Tuesday said sales at its flagship brand fell for a fourth consecutive year in 2022 to 1,466,729 units excluding Russia, a 9.4% decline from 2021.

The French carmaker, which was hit harder than most rivals by the COVID-19 crisis and supply chain snags due to chip shortages, is in the middle of a turnaround in a drive to boost profits.

The group is betting on higher-margin and electric cars to drive growth. It said that in 2022 the Renault brand, which accounts for two-thirds of group sales, was the third European brand for electrified vehicle sales behind Toyota and Tesla with 228,000 units sold, an increase of 12% from 2021.

Its global market share was 4%, shrinking 0.5 percentage points from a year earlier. Out the 10 top markets, the Renault brand scored an increase in sales in only two - Turkey and Colombia.

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Renault, much like Nissan and Mitsubishi, is set on a course of reinventing itself with a new range of EVs developed and sold jointly with its alliance partners. But that’s going to take some time, all the while sales plummeted 15 percent in France and 25 percent in Germany last year.

4th Gear: Elsewhere in the Alliance

Speaking of Renault and Nissan, the Japanese automaker has endorsed the proposed terms of a restructured partnership between the two sides, according to Reuters. The revised deal supposedly looks a little like this:

The two companies are discussing reducing Renault’s stake in Nissan from the current 43% to 15%, equal to Nissan’s stake in Renault. The 28% stake in Nissan that Renault would sell would be transferred to a trust, people involved have said.

At the same time, Nissan is considering investing in a new electric vehicle company that Renault aims to establish code-named Ampere.

One complicating issue has been Nissan’s concern about the treatment of intellectual property, including EV-related technology, that it sees as key to its own future competitiveness, people involved in the discussions have said.

Renault provided proposals intended to address those concerns, which were conveyed to the Nissan board committee by Uchida, a third person with knowledge of the discussions said. The exact nature of those proposals was not immediately known.

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Owning equal portions of each other seems like the most fair move here. It’s good to see Nissan and Renault begin to settle their differences and start hating each other less and working together more. One wonders how Mitsubishi, the perennial third wheel of the Alliance, feels about this whole thing. Not that it ever has much of a choice.

5th Gear: Hertz Will Rent out EVs to Uber Drivers

Uber drivers in the U.S. have been renting Teslas through Hertz since the two companies announced their collaboration in 2021. It appears Hertz is so pleased with the initiative so far that it wants to extend it to Europe — now with Polestars, too. From Reuters:

Car rental firm Hertz will make up to 25,000 electric vehicles available to rent to drivers of ride-hailing company Uber in European capitals by 2025, the two companies said on Tuesday.

The rollout of the rental deal, which will include models from Tesla and Polestar , will start this month in London, where Hertz will add more than 10,000 EVs by 2025 that Uber drivers will be able to rent.

The program will also be expanded other European capitals, including Paris and Amsterdam during 2023.

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Our good friend and former Lyft driver Kevin Williams did the math on EV rideshare rentals when the American version of this deal was first announced. It’s a necessary read if you’re interested in this topic. As someone who has never driven for Uber or Lyft before, the thought of making a highly feast-or-famine, risky line of work in which you have zero job security even riskier seems like a bad choice, but then Hertz and Uber never started this for drivers. They started it because the association with Tesla was and still is arousing to them.

Reverse: ‘Motorama’ Was Such a Cool Name

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Neutral: Stung Ray

Image for article titled Ford Doesn't Want to Drag Out its European EV Partnership With Volkswagen
Image: General Motors
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I love the idea of the E-Ray but god dammit I will never be able to get behind the way the C8 looks. Why does it have lockjaw twice?