Based upon interviews with knowledgeable industry executives, an analysis of the Apple question postulates even if Apple builds an electric car its end goal may be only as an R&D tool to integrate complementary technologies.
This analysis by Automotive News accounts for the fact Apple has not stated exactly what it is playing at as it allegedly poaches top talent toward an automotive project of its own. That it’s going big in the automotive space appears certain, but several insiders believe Apple won’t wade into all the complexities that bog down present automakers but it still wants to make a huge impact and profit handsomely, as usual.
As others have reported, Apple may very well be on its way to building an EV, but its car may be only to gain full working knowledge on challenges of integrating its operating systems and autonomous tech with the aim of ultimately selling these technologies to many other automakers.
This view, put forth by AN’s news analysis sums a statement made last week by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook plus interviews with people who’ve already been deeply involved in the business.
In the view of Steve Wilhite, former vice president of Apple’s global marketing from 1999 to 2000 and with marketing experience with Volkswagen, Nissan and Hyundai, Apple would not want to frontally wade into the challenging car business like Tesla is now doing.
A complete Apple-branded car, he said, “is pretty far-fetched,” and this one might surmise would rule out Apple buying Tesla and still experiencing challenges it does not have to deal with in its profitable core businesses.
“Apple would never lock themselves into three-to-five year product life cycles,” said Wilhite. “Their technology and imagination are just too fertile to do that. They’d have to find the right automotive leader to partner with them and fundamentally change their development model. And I don’t know who that would be.”
Similarly, former GM vice chairman and initiator of the Chevrolet Volt Bob Lutz said he doubts Apple will put any electrical car into production.
“Apple can enter the automobile business in multiple ways,” Lutz said in an interview. “Do I think they are going to work with vehicles? Yes. Do I think they intend to produce entire cars? No.”
Rather, said Lutz, Apple could very likely be in process of developing a modular, upgradeable in-car operating system or autonomous technology.
Automotive News summed his view saying an exercise like this would help refine numerous Apple endeavors, “from image recognition to wireless communications to human-machine interface.”
Another former GM employee with experience with the Volt, former line director Tony Posawatz, suggested if he were in Apple’s shoes, he’d build a full working test mule as “a learning exercise.”
What would Apple learn, and why would it do this?
Henrik Fisker, former head of Fisker Automotive, and renowned designer, praised Apple’s design team lead by Jonathan Ive, and said Apple could be integrating an Apple experience into cars.
In short, Apple could become a tremendous supplier with deep-level experience beyond its present CarPlay, which Automotive News describes as “a stub, a makeshift solution to the problem of driver distraction that offers no more utility — in fact, much less — than an iPhone.”
One clever way Apple could leverage its influence is to shape the auto industry without ever getting into the messy details and expenses carmakers directly face is to become far more wedded to them in the near-term.
Posawatz said present infotainment systems which automakers now employ are themselves “clumsy” and Fisker observes Apple’s challenge and opportunity is to sell people on Apple’s aesthetic and functionality a la iPhone style.
Maybe your future car could have Apple technologies yet un-seen integrated and seamless to add dimension to an Apple-based technological world.
“If you can get people who aren’t interested in cars to actually turn around and look at a car, you’re really successful,” Fisker said.
‘One Seamless Kind of Life’
A few days ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook was quoted as saying Apple does want to insert its operating systems far more profoundly into peoples’ lives.
“We’ve taken iOS and we’ve extended it into your car, your home, into your health,” said Cook alluding to iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. “All of these are really critical parts of your life, and none of us want to have different platforms in different parts of our lives. We want one seamless kind of life. I think that’s huge for our future.”
If Apple wants to make driving a far-more Apple-based experience than it is today, its present endeavors could be how it intends to do it.
With $178 billion in cash, the analysis concedes Apple could indeed as others postulate place “a huge gamble on a potential fiasco” and build an electric car for production.
But what ever it does, postulates the report, “there’s little reason to believe that Apple would want to join a marketplace that already exists — without the opportunity to revolutionize it.”