1 March 2019

Best of friends - Now

Last Friday’s big announcement on a partnership between Daimler and BMW was both expected and surprising. Expected as there have been whispers of an open dialogue between the two for some time, but surprising for the sheer ambition of their future partnership.

The two German giants have, let’s say – not always had each other’s back, competing against each other car for car, often mocking each other’s advertising campaigns and slogans, trying wherever possible to get a leg up on their rival, akin to a kind of sibling rivalry - in that the traits you share and great number of things you have in common are the things that divide you the most.

Both companies have built exciting images of where they see their brands heading in the future, with both embracing similar ideas for the future of the car and urban mobility of their customers. For some years BMW have stolen a lead on their now previous rivals in the electrification stakes with the i-cars with the introductions of the i3 and i8 respectively, offering a car for two distinctly different customers, one for the everyday city car, the other tapping into the supercar sector, both becoming great successes, cementing their position in both markets.

Daimler have taken a different approach, initially looking to hybridise some of their existing models, saving a lot of money on developing new platforms, also acknowledging the difficulties of switching to fully electric. Daimler are now working towards fully electric models, however, they now find themselves fashionably late to the party.

As previously stated, both companies have exciting concepts on future cars with BMW VISION NEXT 100 and Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion, both designed with autonomous, electric driving in mind and both with a sporty space-age feel – though I expect none of us thought either of these two companies would go down the boxy driverless pod route.

These concepts are obviously designed to stir the imagination, but behind them both are fundamental principles that are forcing them both to adapt their principles around pure driving pleasure and to embrace technology as the world of the autonomous car is almost upon us (obviously depending on who you speak to) and the costs associated with developing autonomous technology is truly astronomical. As such the two are hoping to split the bill and share the same, or at least similar autonomous platform. The partnership has already opened the door to being joined by other significant parties, happy to embrace suitable technology companies and possibly other automakers.

Once the partnership has received approval from the European Commission they are looking to share headquarters for the project in Berlin, a project that reaches so much further than just the development of autonomous vehicles, as both car makers accept that car ownership is on the decline: “As pioneers in automotive engineering, we will not leave the task of shaping future urban mobility to others. There will be more people than ever before without a car who will still want to be extremely mobile. We want to combine our expertise and experience to develop a unique, sustainable ecosystem for urban mobility,” said Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

A sentiment echoed by Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG: “The future of mobility lies in cities: The key to more liveable cities is in intelligent and seamless services that are easy to use and combine sustainable modes of transport and mobility services.”

This could well be the start of a trend and we shouldn’t be surprised to see much more of this type of collaboration in the future, as Honda work with GM on autonomous technology and VW are looking to do the same with Ford.

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