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DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - German logistics group Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPWGn.DE) is expanding its foray into electric delivery vans, signing Ford (F.N) as a components supplier for a new line of larger vehicles, the companies said on Wednesday.
Deutsche Post initially developed an electric minivan dubbed Streetscooter for its own operations to avoid inner-city emissions after growth in online shopping resulted in increased parcel deliveries. But in April it took on carmakers by unveiling plans to step up production and sell to other delivery firms.
For the larger van, Ford will supply vehicle technology based on the Transit model, with Deutsche Post keeping assembly, distribution and sales in-house, a Germany-based Ford spokesman told Reuters.
The new model is part of a plan to build another production site for the Streetscooter unit and double annual output to 20,000 vans by the end of the year.
"This step emphasises that Deutsche Post is an innovation leader. It will relieve the inner cities and increase people's quality of life," Deutsche Post executive board member Juergen Gerdes said in a statement.
Advances in manufacturing software are allowing auto industry newcomers such as Deutsche Post, Google and start-ups to tap suppliers to design, engineer and test new vehicle concepts without hiring thousands of engineering staff or investing billions in tooling and factories.
Deutsche Post, which is also building a country-wide network of maintenance and repair shops, wants a fleet of at least 2,500 of the new vans on the road by the end of 2018, it said.
The postal services group decided to build its own vans after it could not agree on a wider supply contract with established vehicle makers.
It is phasing out use of Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) Caddy vans in favour of Streetscooters, and going it alone with the electric van project has upset VW.
Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; Writing by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Mark Potter