Family affair: how the agreement between Ford and Volkswagen was reached

Ford and Volkswagen’s historic deal to partner with their next-generation pickups began at the highest levels of both companies – with a family catch-up.


The deal to make next-generation Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok pickups “twins under the skin” began with a conversation between families at the top of the two global auto giants.

To drive the partnership between Ford and Volkswagen – on the Ranger ute, Transit and Caddy vans, and some electric vehicle technologies – was said to be the result of a “catch-up” between the heads of the families that ran Ford and Volkswagen around the world for six years since.

Although the names of those present in the room were not disclosed, To drive includes William Clay Ford Junior – the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford – was approached by Ferdinand Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and Chairman of the Volkswagen Group Supervisory Board from 2002 to 2015.



Mr. Piech died in 2019, but by then the car-sharing deal had been done; industry insiders say Mr. Piech was influential in the Volkswagen business until the end.

The first meeting between the two families – to discuss a model-sharing deal on utility vehicles, vans and electric cars – happened sometime in 2015 or 2016, To drive has been said.

That was about “six to 12 months” after Ford had already started work on the Ranger and locked down key changes – such as chassis, engines and safety technology – for its next-generation model.



“I was told the two families had a conversation and during this time (Volkswagen) contacted us for worldwide support,” Ian Foston, chief engineer of the new Ford Ranger, told Drive during of a media preview this week.

“They had a conversation as Volkswagen decided at that time that they wanted to investigate the possibility of a relationship between the two companies, particularly around commercial vehicles,” Mr Foston said.

“At the time, they didn’t necessarily want to do the next Amarok on their own (due to cost and focus on electrification in the automotive industry), and they told us that we were the only company with which they would consider associating.



“Once the deal was done, their vehicle programs manager reached out to me and my boss at the time, and that’s when the relationship started.”

Mr Foston said the Ford Ranger was “locked up” around six months to a year before Volkswagen approached.

But, in this case, the changes suited Volkswagen perfectly.



“They (Volkswagen) were very respectful of what we had done on the new Ranger. They really liked the performance of the vehicles and they really wanted that relationship with us where they knew what we were going to offer our next generation would be similar. what they wanted as well, so it was a win-win for both parties.

Foston said the program and the partnership have been going well for the past five years or so during development.

“It was very collaborative and very cohesive,” Mr. Foston said. “Once we signed all the non-disclosure agreements and showed them what we were doing, they were honestly thrilled.



“They said, ‘if we had to develop a new product, we would have done the same thing’. So it was an extremely compatible partnership.

As To drive previously reported, although the new Volkswagen Amarok will be based on the new Ford Ranger and built on the same production line in South Africa, the two vehicles will look and feel different.

“Because Volkswagen was also very keen to completely differentiate the Amarok (from the Ranger), there was never any tension between us,” Mr Foston said. “The new Amarok was never going to be a rebadged version of a Ranger. There’s so much more that goes into vehicles like this.

After describing the new-generation Volkswagen Amarok as a “fully differentiated sister vehicle” last year, during a media preview this week, Foston went into more detail about how unique the two vehicles will be.

“When you drive the new Amarok, it feels a lot like a Volkswagen,” Mr Foston said. To drive.

“I’m also the chief engineer of this program, they (Volkswagen) give us the responsibility for engineering and manufacturing, although they are largely responsible for their own design and what they want in terms of vehicle DNA.



“To make sure the Amarok is true to their DNA, their vehicle has a different character (from the Ford Ranger), they were very clear about that.

“Volkswagen wanted its own DNA, so when you get in and drive the vehicle, you will really feel like a Volkswagen.

“It suited us because we had the same point of view. We wanted to protect the way the Ford Ranger felt for us and for our customers, so that the two vehicles would feel different to drive – and everything the customer touches and sees will be unique between the two vehicles.

Mr Foston said Volkswagen paid particular attention to the feel of its suspension and steering and the treatment of the interior fittings.

“The new Amarok has its own suspension feel, its own on-road steering feel, they wanted the seats to feel a certain way inside. There’s a lot of things we’ve done to tune the vehicles differently.

In another example, Mr Foston said: “The steering column is the same but the steering wheel, interior design, cabin trim materials are unique to Volkswagen.”



Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for over 20 years, spending most of his time working for the Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and an early member of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice/Drive in late 2018 and was a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.

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