Apple has a plan to disrupt the $10T auto industry… that no one knows much about

Apple has a car in the works and plans to enter a global auto market, but few know what that actually means.


February 12, 2021

Few things are guarded more heavily than the Krabby Patty secret formula. Apple’s auto ambitions are among them.

With Apple looking to enter a $10T industry, it would need only a 2% share of the market to reach the size of the iPhone business. Piece of cake.

So, here’s what we do know

Apple’s had an on-again-off-again history with cars:

  • 2015-2017: The WSJ reports on Apple’s “Titan” project. Apple flip-flops between consumer cars and self-driving software, but it appears to double down on hardware when California’s DMV gives it a permit to operate on roads.
  • 2018-2019: A Lexus-built Apple test car is rear-ended — somewhat ironically — by a Nissan LEAF. The future for Titan looks bleak, but then Apple acquires an autonomous-driving startup.
  • 2020-2021: Apple continues to patent car parts and reportedly enters talks with auto manufacturers.

It’s unclear how these talks are going

Recent rumors revolved around an Apple-Hyundai deal to build cars at a Georgia plant by 2024.

But those talks reportedly broke down, since Apple wanted complete control over brand, design, and development, and Hyundai didn’t want to be another Foxconn.

Now it seems Apple’s back to the drawing board, with analysts naming BMW, Magna, Nissan, and Stellantis as potential partners.

What’s unclear is whether Apple is working on a consumer car or a vehicle for last-mile, autonomous robotaxi services.

Either way, Apple’s playing catch-up

Tesla accounted for less than 1% of global vehicle sales in 2020, but its market cap is about equivalent to the 9 largest car brands combined.

Likely the biggest advantages for Tesla — as well as Google’s Waymo, GM’s Cruise, and Amazon’s Zoox — are its millions of miles on the road, essential for self-driving tech. Apple’s test cars drove just ~19k miles in 2020.

Years ago, Elon Musk reportedly reached out to Tim Cook with an offer to acquire Tesla at 1/10th its current value. Per Musk, Cook refused to take the meeting.

We wrote about why the iPhone maker would never buy Tesla here. (TLDR: these types of deals — acquiring brand or revenue — are not in Apple’s DNA…but the longer Apple kicks the iCar down the road, the more questions we’ll be asking.)

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