Apple Car Seen as Serious Competitor by Auto Executives

Automotive executives are taking seriously the prospect that Apple Inc. and Google Inc. will emerge as competitors even as they consider partnering with the two.

“If these two companies intend to solely produce electric vehicles, it could go fast,” Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said at the Geneva International Motor Show. “We are also very interested in the technologies of Google and Apple, and I think that we, as the Volkswagen company, can bring together the digital and mobile world.”

Apple has been working on an electric auto and is pushing to begin production as early as 2020, people with knowledge of the matter said last month. Google said in January it aims to have a self-driving car on the road within five years.

The timeframe — automakers typically need at least five years to develop a car — underscores the aggressive goals of the two technology companies and could set the stage for a battle for customers. The market for connected cars may surge to 170 billion euros ($190 billion) by 2020 from 30 billion euros now, according to a German government policy paper obtained by Bloomberg News.

“The competition certainly needs to be taken seriously,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. “The closer we get to autonomous driving, the weaker the connection becomes between the customer and the car. And Google and Apple aren’t burdened with old technology but can start fresh.”

Barriers Falling

Tesla Motors Inc.’s success in creating a startup car company has also shown that the traditional barriers of entry into the auto industry aren’t as difficult to overcome as some thought. Tesla and General Motors Co. are both targeting a 2017 release of an electric vehicle that can go more than 200 miles on a single charge and cost less than $40,000.

At the same time, automakers have struggled to bring technical leaps to car development, something that Silicon Valley is also seeking to accomplish. For example, Google Inc. has invested in developing an autonomous vehicle since 2010.

“It’s exactly what this industry needed: a disruptive interloper,” said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. “It’s a good thing but when you are one of the guys whose life is being disrupted then you are not necessarily looking forward to the event.”

German Plan

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing party is seeking to help German carmakers and technology companies better compete with Silicon Valley. Merkel’s bloc is working on legislation to advance the move toward driverless cars, according to a policy paper provided by two lawmakers who asked not to be identified because the draft isn’t public. The goal is to present a plan before the Frankfurt auto show in September.

“We never underestimate any competition,” said Ian Robertson, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s sales chief. “The entry barriers, which were in the past maybe more substantial, are now slightly lower. But at the same time, the complexities of the car industry are still there as well.”

An experienced automaker typically spends five-to-seven years developing a new vehicle from scratch, with just the testing phase needed to get regulatory approval often taking three years. Analysts estimate for a company from outside the industry to build a car could take a decade.

Apple Funding

Apple, which posted record profit of $18 billion during the past quarter, in any case has the funds to do it. The Cupertino, California-based company has $178 billion in cash and CEO Tim Cook has been pushing the iPhone maker to enter new market segments to further envelop users’ digital lives with Apple’s products and services.

“The traditional thinking in the automotive industry isn’t suited to exploit the opportunities in the Internet community,” Wolfgang Ziebart, Jaguar Land Rover’s head of engineering, said in an interview. “If you need committees and so on to make decisions, then you’ve lost before you started.”

Apple’s foray into cars follows a path it’s taken to break into other industries. The company wasn’t the first to make a digital-music player or smartphone, and only entered those markets once it had a compelling product. Google says it’s seeking partners to help realize co-founder Sergey Brin’s vision of safer and more efficient mobility.

And while car manufacturers see Google and Apple as potential competitors, they also view them as partners to advance their own technology. A number of automakers last year signed on for Google’s Open Automotive Alliance to bring the Android operating platform to cars.

“The key element is to make sure that when we’re working with them — and we’re totally open to work with any of them — it’s a real win-win,” said Didier Leroy, Toyota Motor Corp.’s European chief. “The carmakers don’t want just to become a kind of commodity, where somebody will only deliver an empty box and somebody will put in the box something which will be the real added value.”


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Apple Car Coming Soon

Mooted Apple electric car is expected to be released by the end of the decade

Speculation regarding a possible Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Car has been accelerating, and to exacerbate this process the website carwow has produced a digital impression of this mooted vehicle. And considering the well-documented links between Apple and Tesla, it should not come as a huge surprise that this particular impression of the Apple Car very much resembles a Tesla vehicle.

Apple-Tesla links

Apple has previously been associated with Tesla for several reasons. Firstly, it was reported last year that the consumer electronics giant could be in buyout talks with the electric car manufacturer. Apple has invariably denied this, but links between the two corporations continue.


It has also been asserted that Apple is intending some sort of collaboration all linked-up with Tesla, with the intention of strongly pushing its software as a car-based solution. But the strongest indication that Apple is planning to manufacture an electric car has been with regard to the revolving door between the two companies. Although, it must be said that this door is primarily revolving one way.

Rumors about a possible Apple electric car were stimulated by the fact that Apple has recruited numerous notable individuals who previously worked for Tesla. Not to be outdone, it was reported by Bloomberg Business in February that Tesla had also been recruiting employees from Apple. Tesla has hired at least 150 former Apple employees; more than from any other company.

Producing an electric car would also seem to make sense for Apple in some respects. There is certainly scepticism that Apple has the production capabilities to produce an electric vehicle, and there will also be issues for the company with regard to some of the logistics of vehicle manufacturing.

Apple Car


Apple Car logical

But Apple has always attempted to push its green credentials, and it obviously has many of the capabilities and much of the experience required to manufacture something which is at least partly electronic in nature. And somehow an electric vehicle just seems to fit the Apple remit and image. There is something inherently Apple-like about an electric car, quite aside from the fact that the consumer electronics giant is already very strongly placed to produce software for vehicles.

Apple’s Tesla-like vehicle

Thus, the carwow impression of a possible Apple Car is certainly not baseless. Already the media has dubbed the potential Apple electric vehicle as the iCar, but whether this would seriously turn out to be the name of an Apple Car is dubious. Apple has moved away from naming all of its products as iDevices with the release of the Apple Watch, and it seems an unlikely prospect for Apple to call its proposed vehicle iCar.

Nonetheless, according to this hypothetical design, the links between Apple and Tesla are about to intensify. It is notable that the Apple Car could take strong cues from the Tesla Model S, which would seem to be logical considering that Tesla is by far the most successful manufacturer of electric cars in the history of the niche.


Other technical specifications involved in the vehicle include a futuristic looking interior, featuring an iPhone dock on the center console, large navigation displays, and a separate screen for the front passenger. Clearly this is precisely the sort of design which one would associate with Apple, and it seems inevitable that any Apple Car would be one very much focused on multimedia.


Apple Car challenges

One cannot underestimate the massive undertaking involved in producing a motor vehicle from scratch. Apple has absolutely no experience in this whatsoever, and simply producing a roadworthy car is a huge challenge. Once this has been achieved, convincing the notoriously harsh and demanding motoring press that you have produced a genuinely high-quality vehicle that people will actually want to drive will be no easy task. And Apple cannot call upon the usual cachet which is the foundation of its success in consumer electronics; if anything people will be sceptical about the haughty claims of this newcomer to the auto trade.

So with this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that the technical specifications proposed for the so-called Apple iCar are somewhat modest. Carwow claims that the top of the range Apple vehicle would benefit from 250 BHP Billiton plc (NYSE:BBL) (LON:BLT) (186 kW) and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) output while the battery pack would last for up to 310 miles (499 km). It also believes that a recharge of an electric car produced by Apple would take around four hours.

Apple Car

Apple Car by 2020

Although Apple will remain resolutely quiet about the prospect of an electric car for many years, as is its general conduct, analysts believe that we can expect such a vehicle by the end of the decade. Having said that, the number of delays which Tesla has experienced with regard to some of its vehicles, and the general trend of release dates of motor vehicles being pushed backwards, suggest that this should be very much viewed as a tentative suggestion.

Another interesting aspect of a possible Apple Car is the idea that it will feature some form of autonomous driving technology. This is becoming increasingly feasible with modern technology, and indeed numerous vehicles already feature driving assists, with apps available to expand this process still further. By the end of the decade, and even some way into the next decade, by which time Apple is expected to have released this proposed vehicle, such autonomous technology will have advanced even further.

In the meantime, Apple is also strongly pushing its CarPlay feature. As in all areas that Apple becomes involved in, there is already a battleground between Apple and an Android competitor, Android Auto. Many analysts believe that Apple’s interest in the electric car niche is at least partly motivated by its intention to dominate it with its own proprietary software.

And the company has certainly been making progress with this plan, with current Apple CEO Tim Cook suggesting during a media event recently that the Apple CarPlay infotainment system will become available on 40 new car models before the end of the year.

Apple clearly has designs on the car market by hook or by crook, and it could be that many of us will be driving around in an Apple ‘iCar’ before too much longer.


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Apple Car Resembles Tesla Vehicle In These Concept Images

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