With the auto industry continuing to move at an ever faster pace, and with a myriad of changes on the horizon, companies are forced to look outside their walls to develop new relationships to get the leg up on the competition.  But, I’m not sure some of these companies saw this as the future.

In 2009, Brembo and Porsche both saw the future in carbon-ceramic brakes, much like the PCCB system offered on their cars today.  But, they knew they needed to drive down the cost of the solution, to make it a much more main stream product.  They find that partner in SGL.  So, they create a joint-venture to further the investment and research in this area.

Then, BMW, in the search for lowering the cost of CF and CFRP body parts, they also find a partner to drive down the costs in SGL.  This is no small undertaking…..here are the details of that partnership.

SGL Carbon SE, with whom BMW has a joint venture for production of carbon fiber.  BMW plans greater use of the lightweight but strong carbon fiber material carbon fiber in its future vehicles. BMW and SGL planned to invest as much as 230 million euros ($317.9 million) in a joint venture to produce carbon fiber car bodies on an industrial scale. The future BMW i3 (Megacity) and the BMW i8 (Vision EfficientDynamic) will both feature body shells constructed of carbon fiber.

So, now we have Porsche, Brembo, BMW and SGL all teamed with each other, but on separate project fronts…but, still all looking for industry leading and differentiated solutions from these partnerships.

Then, last week in Geneva, along comes yet another player……VW Group.

Volkswagen AG’s acquisition of an 8.2 percent stake in carbon fiber specialist SGL Carbon surprised the latter’s partner, BMW AG, signaling a potential source of conflict between the carmakers.

“VW did not tell us about it. We weren’t warned in advance,” Norbert Reithofer, CEO of BMW, told reporters on Tuesday during the Geneva auto show.

BMW and SGL planned to invest as much as 230 million euros ($317.9 million) in a joint venture to produce lightweight carbon fiber car bodies on an industrial scale as part of its vaunted efforts to roll out an ultra-green BMW electric car for megacities such as Shanghai.

First announced in October 2009, the BMW-SGL JV would produce several thousand tons of carbon fiber annually. Six months later, Mercedes-Benz formed a joint venture with carbon fiber industry leader Toray of Japan in a move that underscored the growing strategic importance of high-tech, lightweight materials in the fight to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

So, the next new product on your BMW could come from VW, or your next body panel on your Porsche from BMW…..funny how these things work out.