Ford and Volkswagen announced jointly on Friday that VW will share its MEB affordable electric car architecture with Ford, while VW will join Ford's Argo self-driving effort.

In addition to its own efforts to build electric cars, Ford will build a new electric car for the European market based on Volkswagen’s mass-market MEB platform. Ford CEO James Hackett says the car will be built at a Ford factory in Europe starting in 2023.

Volkswagen will provide the vehicle architecture—including batteries—for up to 600,000 examples of the car. The companies are continuing discussions to build a second MEB-based electric model for Ford of Europe with nearly as large a volume. And VW CEO Herbert Diess allowed that Ford EVs based on the platform could also come to the U.S., though none are currently planned.

Ford will also sell electric cars in Europe (and in the U.S. and elsewhere) based on its own platforms, including the Mustang-inspired Mach E SUV due out in 2021 and the electric F150 it has under development. The company also invested $500 million in EV pickup startup company Rivian in April, which Hackett says is designed to accelerate the automaker's knowledge base on EVs and should be seen separately from product development. 

Ford crossover EV teaser photo

Ford crossover EV teaser photo

One of the biggest challenges in getting more consumers to buy electric cars is to bring prices down to make them more affordable even without tax credits.

Executives from both companies said that sharing the MEB platform is designed to do that. “We will see more collaboration [on electric cars] because the timing is not clear and the market penetration is not clear" said Diess. Sharing the MEB platform with other automakers will increase volume to spread development costs and make EVs “more affordable for consumers, and be better for the environment,” said VW CEO Herbert Diess.

Hackett called MEB, which stands for "modular electric architecture" "an impressive platform.”

VW MEB platform

VW MEB platform

“I’m very inspired by it, and our teams are excited to work with it,” he said. The MEB platform is one of the first dedicated electric-car platforms designed to be sold in all of the major car markets around the world.

The announcement expands on an earlier agreement between the companies to share development costs on commercial vans and self-driving cars announced in January. Global vehicles developed under that agreement will go on sale beginning in 2022.

As for the self-driving portion of the partnership, Volkswagen will join Ford in taking a $1 billion stake in Argo.AI, and will merge its Autonomous Intelligent Driving self-driving program into Argo. Argo is testing self-driving vehicles in five U.S. cities, including Miami, Detroit, and Washington, DC, in an effort to develop fully self-driving cars.