Volkswagen seems to be on a real tear these days with continuing rumors of them acquiring Porsche outright, and sales numbers indicating that they could displace GM and become the second largest automaker in the world. And now word comes out that VW will be partnering with the Chinese automaker BYD to make electric cars.
A memorandum of understanding was signed last week between Volkswagen and Chinese automaker BYD to partner “in the area of electric mobility” and vehicles using lithium-ion batteries. “Hybrids and electric vehicles will play an increasingly important role [for VW], of course. Particularly for the Chinese market, potential partners such as BYD could support us in quickly expanding our activities,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board for Technical Development at Volkswagen.
A memorandum of understanding (or MOU as the MBA types like to say – essentially it’s the legal version of a promise ring) was signed by BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu and VW’s Martin Winterkorn in Wolfsburg, Germany last week. Chairman Wang Chuanfu seems to be quite the interesting guy in addition to working with VW. There are reports on the net that he drank (as in swallowed) battery fluid as a stunt recently. I don’t know any more than that, and I didn’t really want to know … the rumors are creepy enough.
Anyway, this is very interesting news that seemed to pop up out of nowhere and caught everybody by surprise. Sure, VW, like very other carmaker on the planet, is interested in EVs and getting as much of a jump as possible. And partnering with a Chinese firm makes a lot of sense, especially if China decides to start taking care of the environment (no grantees there yet). And perhaps VW was spurred to action by another German automaker (cough-cough, Daimler) hooking up with another EV (cough-cough, Tesla) automaker, but who knows.
What is known is that Volkswagen is one of the biggest selling brands in China, and that EVs are going to be pushed into the mainstream, kicking and screaming if necessary, by a combination of proactive government regs, carmakers’ desires to maintain profitability, and the environment letting us know that burning oil is a real killer.
What will come of VW partnering with BYD? Obviously some sort of EV product for the home (Chinese) market, and potentially for the Euro market as well. North America? Time will tell, but by inking this partnership, Volkswagen could have an arrow in its quiver all ready to go if the need or opportunity presents itself in the North American market.