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The core of a car’s identity is at risk with electric vehicles coming onto market

BERLIN: With so much of a car’s production having moved beyond the walls of the automaker’s final assembly plant, the engine has become one of the few distinguishing items left in a brand’s portfolio. But even this core asset seems to be slipping away, especially among European makers who are rushing to meet stringent carbon dioxide targets and to gain footholds in the electric vehicle market.

Volvo and Daimler are among the European carmakers developing partnerships with outside suppliers for basic powertrain elements – and investing billions to secure a place in a market that today barely exists.

Such ventures go well beyond the arrangements made in recent years – an alliance formed by Daimler, Renault and Nissan, for example – to build fleets of small cars with cleaner diesel and gas engines. Similarly, BMW and PSA Peugeot-Citroen have joined forces to develop hybrid components.

Daimler went a step further, concluding a 50-50 joint venture with Bosch, the giant components supplier, to develop, produce and sell electric motors for a new generation of e-cars.

Volvo reached out to Siemens, the German industrial heavyweight. The two companies agreed to team up on power electronics and technology for electric-drive and charging systems; their work has been integrated into a test fleet of Volvo C30 Electric hatchbacks.


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