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Partnerships ‘Key’ to Automaker Success – but BMW, GM and Peugeot Play the Field

Automakers including General Motors, Toyota, BMW, Volkswagen and Ford are partnering to share technologies like alternative fuels, electric vehicles and advanced composites in response to “megatrends” including sustainability, urbanization and a materials revolution, according to a Lux Research study.

Recent news reports suggest these vehicles manufacturers are fickle, ready to drive off and leave their old partners in the dust as soon as a shinier, newer model comes along. But, according to Lux Research analyst Andrew Soare, “The report is still accurate. Companies are going to consistently end partnerships and form partnerships — its very similar to dating.”

Original equipment manufacturers must evolve their partnership webs to succeed in the auto industry, according to Kevin See, another Lux Research analyst and the lead author of the report, “Under the Hood: Mapping Automotive Innovations to Megatrends.”

According to the report, General Motors leads the partnership race. Lux says GM boasts the highest activity in both materials and sustainability megatrends, while Toyota leads in urbanization.

Lux Research analysts also found Volkswagen, Toyota and Daimler look outside their continents for 77 percent of their partnerships, while BMW keeps more than half of its partnerships within Europe. Likewise, GM and Ford have formed more than half their partnerships within North America.

The report also says emerging market players are challenging established automakers for the mass market. For example, Indian conglomerate Tata bought legendary British brands Range Rover and Jaguar, while Chinese carmaker Geely bought Sweden’s Volvo Cars.

Meanwhile, in late June BMW ended talks with General Motors about cooperating on fuel cells for vehicles, and expanded its partnership with Toyota, which now includes hybrid powertrains and lightweight design. The German luxury automaker had been in talks with both companies since December.

And earlier this week, BMW announced that it was ending its partnership with PSA Peugeot Citroen, Bloomberg reports. The breakup happened eight months after the two car companies agreed to collaborate on fuel-efficient vehicles.

“Companies are looking for partners to work with, but they’re going to break up with partners, find new partners,” Soare said. “It looks polygamist, but in reality they’re looking for the perfect partner to marry.”

These couples don’t share all their wealth, however. GM and Peugeot’s partnership, formed earlier this year, will see the companies share selected platforms, modules and components – not including the Chevy Volt and PSA Peugeot Citroen’s 3008 HYbrid4 technology, Reuters reports. When asked if the two companies would offer cars equipped with the other’s green car technology, the development chief of Opel, GM’s European unit, Rita Forst said, “I can’t imagine that.”

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