Apple soll seit 2014 an der Entwicklung eines Elektroautos arbeiten. Ab 2024 könnte laut Berichten das “iCar” in Produktion gehen.
By Andrej Sokolow, dpa
Seoul – There has been speculation about an Apple car for years – but now reports are piling up that are becoming more and more specific. First, a South Korean newspaper wrote, without further citing the source, that Apple would soon invest billions in the car manufacturer Kia in order to prepare the production of its electric vehicles for the year 2024 at its plant in the US state of Georgia. Then put the US broadcaster CNBC with the information after, the Apple cars should drive completely autonomously.
In the past few weeks there have been increasing indications that the iPhone company is looking to South Korea. The Kia sister company Hyundai confirmed the financial service Bloomberg negotiations with Apple – only to speak a little later of the “interests of various companies”. The analyst Ming-chi Kuo, who is well connected in Apple’s supply chain, wrote that Hyundai’s new electric car platform E-GMP should serve as the basis for the vehicle of the electronics giant. Hyundai is promising a range of up to 500 kilometers with E-GMP – and promises to be able to fill up 80 percent of the battery capacity within 18 minutes with a quick charge function.
CNBC limited at the same time that the start of production could come later than 2024, the negotiations with Hyundai-Kia were not yet completed – and instead or in addition, other manufacturers could be involved. According to the newspaper Nikkei there are also talks with Japanese car companies. Either way – these are the most detailed references to Apple’s plans to date.
Robot car in Silicon Valley
In the meantime it seemed as if an “iCar” would remain a phantom. Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have given the go-ahead for the development of an electric car in 2014. Suppliers have already seen prototypes – but then Apple shifted down a gear and initially focused on developing software for autonomous driving.
The only irrefutable evidence of Apple’s car ambitions so far have been the SUVs from the Toyota luxury brand Lexus, which have been converted into robot cars and are packed with sensors in Silicon Valley. More than 50 of them are registered with the California Department of Transportation.
In the past few years, hot rumors have surfaced from time to time. It was said that Apple wanted to buy the British sports car maker McLaren. The contract manufacturer Magna was repeatedly traded as a likely production partner. Apple brought in experts from the electric car pioneer Tesla and established manufacturers. But the years went by without a car from the iPhone company. Meanwhile, in early 2019, Sony became the first electronics company to introduce its own car prototype in early 2019, developed together with Magna. Sony still says nothing about series production – but recent developments and ongoing road tests show that the Japanese are serious.
Conflict between automakers and tech companies
At the same time, the entire industry is changing. The manufacturers proclaimed the era of the “software defined car”. The basic idea: a vehicle can be continuously improved with software updates and further developed with new functions. Tesla is already leading the way with its system updates, and the rest of the industry is swerving on course.
And for years now, industry experts have seen a fundamental conflict between automakers and tech companies such as Apple and Google – a competition over the interface with people in the car. People want to use their smartphone apps and services in their cars. The manufacturers’ strategy is to offer vehicle occupants their own world, from controlling the infotainment system to selecting apps and other services. They compete with systems like Apple’s Carplay or Google’s Android Auto, which allow users to bring apps from their iPhone or Android phone to the large screen in the cockpit.
In the car of the future, controlling how people interact with them is not about prestige, but about money. “Access to the customer will determine who makes the service sales. And that will be a quarter of the industry’s revenues in ten years”, says industry expert Axel Schmidt from the management consultancy Accenture.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty also points out that Apple would only have to conquer two percent of the global mobility market in order to achieve the volume of today’s iPhone business with its car. And Apple is traditionally good at enlarging a market by entering it. “In our opinion, such a development could significantly expand the market for electric vehicles,” said a recent analysis by the investment bank.