In a sign of the times, the old rivals Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have said that they will work together with Nokia to develop mapping technology. The three rivals are convinced that they will have to cooperate to prevent Google dominating the digital maps markets.
The move suggests that the German car industry has finally recognized a new truth: It will have to cooperate, rather than compete, if it is to survive.
The kind of challenges facing Germany’s car makers are so large than even a giant such as Volkswagen cannot deal with them alone. Developing expensive future technologies, dealing with European emission regulations or lobbying over the TTIP free-trade treaty with the United States are all areas that demand cooperation.
The companies that compete so hard against each other in the global markets have to find more and more areas of common ground.
Take the example of battery cells. At the moment the concept of electric cars is in its infancy. But it is easy to see that hybrid and electric cars are soon going to be available on a mass scale. The world market for battery cells is currently dominated by Korean and Chinese companies. Tesla will soon enter the market with Gigafabrik. German companies fell out of this race a few years ago. If they don’t get back in, their competitors will soon be able to dictate prices and standards.