Some unlikely partnerships are emerging as European manufacturers rush to develop zero-emissions electric vehicles (EVs).
Many of the deals being talked about are with Chinese companies. China is pursuing an aggressive policy in favour of EVs, and the European giants do not want to be left out of the largest and fastest-growing market in the world.
Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz and Smart, has tied up a deal with China's BYD (Build Your Dreams) and has also held as-yet-inconclusive talks with Toyota on hybrid technology.
Jaguar has admitted that it also looking for a Chinese partner, while in Europe BMW and PSA Peugeot-Citroen have announced plans to extend their engine deal to incorporate hybrids.
Daimler/BYD electric car by 2012
Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche says his company and BYD have already agreed on a specification for a joint electric vehicle. 'We know the specific details this car should fulfil. The shape and form of the car are soon to be defined and those are the pre-requisites for starting development and its execution', Zetsche told a forum in Shanghai.
Daimler intends to build the joint-venture car in China and to have it on sale by 2012, although there is no announcement as to whether it will be sold elsewhere. In return, BYD will be given access to Daimler technology.
Daimler already has agreements in place with Nissan and Renault to share platforms and engines, and because both companies are heavily involved in EV development this could be extended to include electric powertrains. However, there have been 'no concrete results' from the talks Daimler has held with Toyota about co-operation on hybrid technology, Zetsche says.
More partnerships on the way
Jaguar has not announced the name of the Chinese partner it is talking to, but Carl-Peter Forster, the chief executive of Tata Motors, Jaguar's owner, admits that talks are going ahead. No timetable has been set for reaching a deal, he added.
The latest BMW-PSA agreement is for hybrid powertrains for front-wheel-drive vehicles. PSA plans to put the world's first diesel hybrid cars on sale next year, initially in Peugeot's 3008 crossover, then later in the Peugeot 508 and Citroen C5.
The BMW-PSA agreement suggests that the German company could also be looking at diesel hybrids to further reduce the already low emissions of its range. BMW has announced plans to be building a million front-drive cars a year, including Minis, by the middle of this decade.