BMW and Mercedes have gone public with their plans to pool resources as they tackle some of the big challenges of mobility: ride hailing, car sharing, charging, parking and the role of public transport. But there may be much more afoot: over a year ago the rival German companies started discussing how to work together on underpinnings for some of their cars. So far no agreement has been reached, but the matter may evolve into something concrete even before Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche steps down in May.
If it happened, it could result in shared elements for the 2025 1-series and 2024’s follow-up to the Mercedes A-/B-Class.
Savings would run into the billions of euros. But, adds a BMW engineer who’s on the joint task force: ‘Such a deal is of course also a highly political affair with the traditionalists on both sides being particularly sceptical.’
The idea would be to develop two platforms: MX-1 for small to midsize vehicles (think 1- to 3-series) and MX-2 for mid- to full-size cars (E-Class and up).
Both companies have solid plans in place for the period between now and 2025; this mooted scheme is about being ready for the day when demand for EVs takes off.
Zetsche’s successor Ola Källenius and BMW chief Harald Krüger are believed to have both tasked their teams with exploring cost-effective ways of differentiating shared architecture, so that a Merc still looks, drives and performs differently from a BMW. Everything you see, touch or feel needs to be bespoke. Comments a member of the Mercedes delegation: ‘In a first step, we established a brand bible which lists the critical do’s and don’ts. Now we are in the process of separating the items that should be standardised from the elements that must not.’
The plan of course excludes Audi, which has more than enough partnerships on the go as part of the VW Group. But Audi’s not short of ideas for the transitional decade during which it will make combustion-engined cars as well as EVs: a fresh approach to micromobility, a more aggressive approach to cell chemistry in combination with higher voltages, a limited-edition solid-state halo car manufactured exclusively from 3D printed parts, a pair of h-Tron fuel cell vehicles, the e-Tron Plus system boasting a combination of performance and range batteries complete with Beast mode (take that, Tesla), and a modular one-engine-does-it-all approach to PHEVs, where various batteries are paired with the same scalable petrol-fed four-cylinder engine.