Like Ford Motor, the VW Group also builds a range of commercial vehicles (Photo: VW)

Ford Motor and Volkswagen Group are looking at ways to cooperate as both companies face a rapidly changing automotive business environment.

The two carmakers said in a joint statement that they are exploring a strategic alliance that could involve joint projects, including, in particular, the development of commercial vehicles.

Cooperation agreements between car companies aren't new and there are various examples of independent carmakers competing and cooperating at the same time. Toyota and France's PSA Group have been jointly manufacturing small cars. PSA has also been working closely with Mitsubishi on SUVs. And Daimler and Renault-Nissan have been jointly developing vehicles and sharing engines for years.

VW and Ford said their strategic alliance doesn't imply any equity arrangements such as a cross-shareholding between the companies.

Jim Farley, Ford's president of global markets, said the tie-up is an example of a strategy to work with partners to improve "effectiveness and efficiency."

And VW Group's strategy boss, Thomas Sedran, cited the need to respond to rapidly changing customer requirements as one reason to cooperate with a competitor such as Ford.

"To adapt to the challenging environment, it is of utmost importance to gain flexibility through alliances," Sedran said in a press release.

He added that Ford and VW have "strong and complementary positions in different commercial vehicle segments."

The VW Group, with its 12 car and truck brands, is the world's biggest automaker in terms of unit sales.

-By Arjen Bongard