158 'Apple Car' stories
February 2015 - July 2021
Despite years of speculation about an Apple Car, we still have little hard information about Apple’s plans.
Table of contents
When did the rumors begin?
The first reports date back to early 2015, when a camera-festooned car was shown to be leased to Apple. While some believed this was for Apple Maps, others suggested it looked more like a test-bed for a self-driving car. Shortly afterwards, Apple was found to be poaching Tesla engineers., and we uncovered a significant number of senior automotive hires.
What is Apple up to?
This is the $64,000 question. We know for sure that Apple is very actively exploring some kind of move into the automotive sector, but it’s still not 100% clear that the company plans to go as far as launching a car, which consumers will be able to buy.
We’ve seen three main possibilities suggested:
Some kind of car technology, but not a car
The first suggestion is that Apple wants to create some kind of car tech, but not go as far as actually making a car. Some believe Apple’s primary interest is in the in-car experience as the world transitions to self-driving cars – a kind of CarPlay on steroids, if you will. Others believe there is enough evidence that Apple is working on self-driving technology, but that it will license this to other companies, rather than make its own car.
The second possibility is that Apple plans to make cars, but not for retail sale. One obvious market for autonomous cars is ride sharing, so it’s possible that Apple plans to make a self-driving car for a ride-sharing service, but we wouldn’t be able to buy one.
A car for retail sale
The third option, of course, is a full-on car that consumers can lease or buy outright. It’s this possibility which has understandably lead to the greatest amount of debate and excitement.
Who would make it?
Assuming Apple does plan to actually make a car, it would partner with a manufacturing company to actually produce the vehicles. Here there are two possible routes the company could take.
Partner with an established brand
The big stumbling block here appears to be branding. Existing car brands would be reluctant to be relegated to the role of a contract manufacturer, where Apple makes all the decisions and the car has only Apple branding.
Use a contract manufacturer
The other, perhaps more likely, possibility is that Apple commissions a contract manufacturer to build the cars, just as it uses companies like Foxconn and Pegatron to make iPhones and other Apple products.
Foxconn is known to be working on electric car production, but likely working more at the lower end of the market. Magna is one of the best-known contract manufacturers able to build models for premium brands, and so appears a likely contender.
What have existing car makers said?
Unsurprisingly, almost all are claiming not to be worried. For example, BMW’s CFO says he “sleeps peacefully” while VW says the company isn’t afraid. Toyota thinks Apple doesn’t understand that you have to be ready to provide 40 years of after-sales support for a car, where Apple tends to discontinue support five to seven years after it ceases to sell a particular model.
In reality, of course, any premium brand car maker has to be sweating right now. Tesla is the only car company to openly admit that Apple will pose extremely tough competition.
When would an Apple Car be launched?
This too is one of the Big Questions. In 2015, some suggested an Apple Car might go on sale as early as 2020, which of course didn’t happen. A variety of other dates have been suggested, from 2024 through 2026 to 2028 or beyond.
With no deal apparently yet struck, and no leaks of anything specific, it is certainly clear that Apple is nowhere close to a launch anytime soon.
Concept image: CarWow