While last week it seemed that Ford (NYSE:F) was going to be in a pretty rough position, especially with its Lincoln brand, a new alliance could help the automaker best two big competitors.
Over the past year, Ford has been working to re-brand its struggling Lincoln luxury brand with limited success. And trong competition hasn’t been making it easy. While Lincoln sales are already below the likes of BMW and Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) Lexus brand in the U.S., competitors are getting even more technological edges to stay on top.
GM (NYSE:GM) already had a successful vehicle with the Chevrolet Volt, and a successful luxury brand with the Cadillac, but even then it decided to push the envelope. In a recent showing, GM displayed the new Cadillac ELR coupe, which is a modified version of the new Cadillac line-up that features the Volt’s plug-in hybrid technology. The new car offers something that is not often seen in luxury cars, and it could give Cadillac a competitive edge.
BMW and Toyota
GM wasn’t the only one thinking about luxury and economy at the same time. BMW and Toyota have made — and are considering more — agreements surrounding fuel-cell technologies, which have the potential to push a car 5 times further on a single charge than the Volt’s hybrid technology can.
BMW and Toyota are working together to develop the fuel-cell technology, which uses hydrogen and oxygen, making it completely emissions-free. When the technology is ready, it could be seen in BMW, Toyota, and maybe even Lexus automobiles.
Last week, BMW was discussing an agreement with Toyota for BMW to lease the fuel-cell technology, with a prototype fuel-cell BMW expected around 2015, and a production model around 2020. It’s likely Toyota would also come out with models in a similar time-frame.
Considering BMW is already the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S., and Lexus isn’t so far behind, a next-generation fuel technology could put them over the edge if the competition have no fuel-cells of their own.
And if no others have fuel-cells…
Ford is proving to be no fool, as it recently made friends with the Renault and Nissan alliance — Daimler is also joining the group. The four automakers have come together to develop their own fuel-cell technology for vehicles.
Developing new technologies is an expensive endeavor, and in the weakened European market, companies may be more hesitant when spending their money. The new partnership between Renault, Nissan, Ford, and Daimler will help defray the individual costs of producing the fuel-cell technology. More importantly, the automakers could have road models ready as early as 2017, which would put them out sooner than BMW’s current time-frame.
It would be one thing for Ford to come out with a fuel-cell-powered car within the next four years — it would certainly help in the competition with the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius — but it would be another thing for Ford to incorporate the technology into the struggling Lincoln brand. Considering the 2017 date, a fuel-cell-powered Lincoln could help the brand make a comeback against BMW and Toyota’s Lexus.
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