Age-old rivals BMW and Daimler, owner of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands, are reportedly considering building cars together.
A report in German newspaper Handelsblatt says the cost-saving move would see Mercedes’ and BMW’s compact cars in the A-Class and 1-Series lines all built on the same platform. It could potentially include the larger Mini models, too, as they will soon share a chassis with the 1-Series.
Such a move would free up billions in investment capital to pour into self-driving cars and future mobility concepts to cover as many potential outcomes as possible while the industry remains in a state of massive flux, undecided on its course.
This new development comes just a month after the two brands announced a joint venture to accelerate the growth of digital mobility services in order to stave off the likes of Waymo. Actually building cars together, though, is an unprecedented step and one that illustrates how seriously the traditional European car giants are taking the mainly US-led rise of tech companies into the automotive arena.
The Handelsblatt report quotes a consultant at Horvath & Partners, Dietmar Voggenreiter, as saying that the golden goose is being among the first to establish a reliable platform to operate autonomous vehicles across a country, and that both BMW and Daimler would rather work together than allow foreign firms an open goal in Europe. He said (via translation):
“Those who are the first to dominate autonomous driving, who are the first to offer a functioning autonomous taxi fleet, occupy a huge market. In the US, Waymo and Uber are hard to beat as platform operators, but in Europe, roles are not yet dispersed.”
No platform-sharing arrangement for the 1-Series and A-Class could come into being before 2025, reports the newspaper, owing to the current models’ long remaining life cycles, but it could be a good fit. Many years of research, development and testing are necessary to overcome the complex challenges presented by urban automation.