Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, which have been in talks to team up on electric and autonomous vehicles, make for good partners because both recognize the extent of the challenges ahead, according to Bill Ford, executive chairman of the U.S. automaker.
"We fit together geographically really well, product line-wise, we fit together well," Bill Ford, the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, said Tuesday at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. "We both came to the same realization that as big as our balance sheets are, no company can do this alone."
Talks between Ford and VW are still at an early stage, Ford said, but there's been promising progress made in building on the partnership the two companies solidified in January to jointly produce commercial vehicles. The U.S. and German automakers have established a framework for VW to invest in Ford's autonomous vehicle partner Argo AI, people familiar with the negotiations have said. The companies also are considering joining forces on electric cars.
"We're really in the early days of exploring what the possibilities could be," Ford said. "We have some clear ideas of where we want to go with it and they do, too."
VW CEO Herbert Diess said separately Tuesday that his company is in " very good talks" with Ford on expanding their commercial-vehicle collaboration to include autonomous vehicles. Ford also is considering using VW's electric-car platform, dubbed MEB, in Europe and China, Diess said.
"The supertanker is picking up speed," Diess said in a speech at VW's annual earnings press conference. "We are aligning Volkswagen with e-mobility like no other company in our industry."
Such a deal could help position Ford for a future where electric and self-driving cars will help address problems including urban congestion and pollution, Bill Ford said. He said he's attempting to reposition the 115-year-old company for the dramatic changes that are coming, which could include selling fewer cars and developing new forms of mobility such as electric scooters.
"I'd like Ford to be around another 100 years, and if that's going to happen, it's clear that we really have to branch off into new directions to try to solve some of these problems," Ford said. "It's hard because our current business model is providing all the earnings and cash flow that fund a lot of this change. So we have to do both really well. If we don't make great cars and trucks today that people want, guess what? There is no tomorrow."