I’d like to take a moment to talk about something we’ve discussed on our recent episodes: the VW and Ford partnership. As the podcast’s resident VAG fanboy (or VW AG for the more childish of our hosts), I’d like to weigh in on the issue. My verdict: PUMPED. I’ve been looking into it more and more, and I have to say I’ve come away excited. We rag a lot on Ford in our episodes for boneheadedly choosing to move away from the regular car, but what we don’t give Ford a lot of credit for is their very good trucks and vans.
This is because we are an automobile enthusiast podcast, but when we say automobile enthusiast, we generally mean cars, not trucks and vans. Minus some offroad variants or special editions, to us, pickup trucks and vans are just kind of... there. A lot of people drive them daily, but for the most part, they are there to do a job. A lot are fleet vehicles or are owned by individual tradespeople. At the very least some of them are privately owned for to boat towing, RV towing, or go kart towing. Although necessary in some cases and good at what they do, trucks and work vans are rarely, if ever, glamorous.
That said, we did have the F-150 on our bracket for most iconic car for a reason. It is still the benchmark and template for the “pickup truck”. 32 million F-series trucks had been sold as of a year ago (the most recent numbers I could find, given lag in collating data). Two are sold every minute, on average. On the van front, the Ford Transit is also king. Four hundred thousand have been registered in the US so far. It’s only been here since 2014, and in America, vans don’t sell nearly as well as trucks. Getting Americans to make the leap to an extremely European, kinda weird looking van is no small feat, but the Transit seems to have accomplished it. Some might argue the Mercedes/Dodge Sprinter was first, and it was, at least chronologically. But the Sprinter was just the ripple that started the tidal wave of Euro-style vans on North American roads. The Transit is the wave. So, in the truck and van market? Ford is doing well.
But Ford isn't doing well everywhere else. Despite being a dominant force in the work vehicle markets, Ford’s overall market share has plummeted in the last three years. At the CEP, we chalk that up to aging car models, lackluster crossovers, and horrendous interiors even before they decided to completely stop selling cars. Fortunately, all of this is something that VW can help with. VW has recently had a notable re-invigoration of their design departments with the new Arteon, Atlas, new Jetta (which I prefectly predicted, but anyways), and the new Tiguan all sporting really solid looks matched with VW's signature high-quality interiors. VW seems to have taken our advice and put the value back into the People’s Car. If any of that manages to bleed over to Ford, especially into their already successful trucks and vans, it can only be a good thing. But what does VW get in return?
A goddamn truck. Simple as that. I state again, I’m the VW fanboy around these parts and even I would never drive their current truck, the Amarok. It just doesn’t have the chops to be a "real" pickup truck. For example: The Amarok is All-wheel drive instead of true 4WD, it has no low range gearbox, it has leaf springs in the back, etc. Of course, the most damning evidence that the Amarok isn't a real truck is that VW doesn't even sell it in America, home of the truck! Now, it does have some excellent engine options and it IS a traditional body-on-frame design. However, that makes it seem half done to me. I think Ford could help VW finish the Amarok. Ford is already developing a new platform for the re-introduced Ranger, and it’s already been confirmed that they are going to share truck technology with VW. If VW can bring a real truck to market in order to compete directly with the Ranger, Colorado, and Tacoma, then suddenly, VW - who has been doing everything else correctly as of late - will have a powerful new weapon in not just the rest of the world, but hopefully in America too.
The idea of this partnership began with plans for sharing development and production of commercial vehicles. Large work vans, delivery trucks, etc. This was purported to be in order for the two companies to save billions in development, production, and distribution costs. But the talks have grown to encompass everything from technology sharing for consumer vehicles, to EV technology, to VW possibly purchasing a stake in Fords autonomous car division “Argo”. Yes, I had to look that up. I didn’t even know it was it’s own division, much less that it was named Argo. To me, that’s the only sour grape in the whole bunch of goodness that can come from this. We know a certain amount of driver aid is coming, but we also know that, according to all the experts so far, truly autonomous vehicles are, if not impossible, a VERY long way off. I would wait, VW. Run your own tests. Create some of your own tech. Buy into an alliance LATER if it makes sense. Don’t give needless money to Ford to buy into their tech.
So yes. You heard it on the podcast. Initially I was skeptical of VWs ties to one of the most anti-car car brands in America: Ford. It’s weird to say that about the brand that BROUGHT you the car, but there it is. Ford is anti-car. Not anti-automobile, but anti-car. VW, of course, loves the car. 13 of the 28 countries in the EU have either the VW Golf or the Skoda Octavia as their best-selling car of 2018, and every single country has at least one VWG car in their top 3. So why would VW want to associate themselves with Ford? Because it’s not Ford’s car expertise they’re after. VW is after Ford's trucks. And maybe, hopefully, a little of VW’s continuing love for cars will rub back off on the Ford executive board. We can always hope. But for now, I think we’re going to see some very good things come from this unholy-seeming alliance. Bring it on.