It looks like Apple is developing a car, as hard as that might be to believe.
Tim Bradshaw and Andy Sharman at the Financial Times are reporting the following:
Apple is recruiting experts in automotive technology and vehicle design to work at a new top-secret research lab, according to several people familiar with the company, pointing to ambitions that go beyond the dashboard.
Dozens of Apple employees, led by experienced managers from its iPhone unit, are researching automotive products at a confidential Silicon Valley location outside the company’s Cupertino campus, the people said.
Sir Jonathan Ive’s team of Apple designers has held regular meetings with automotive executives and creators in recent months, in some cases trying to hire them. Recent recruits to Apple’s team include the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D unit.
This is just the latest report to bolster the idea Apple is developing its own car. Here’s a quick recap of the story to date:
- In early February, an unmarked minivan was spotted driving around with a weird camera on it. It was traced back to Apple. People thought it could be a test of self driving car technology, or it could be a camera to capture street images for Apple Maps.
- A short while after that, an Apple employee emailed us unexpectedly to say, “Apple’s latest project is too exciting to pass up. I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.” We weren’t sure if this person was talking about something that would just be for in-car entertainment, or a full-on car.
- Next, Bryan Chaffin at The Mac Observer reported that his sources said Apple was working on a car. He said, “What I learned is that Apple has been looking for—and acquiring—the kind of people from Tesla with expertise that is most suited to cars. So much so that I went from being a doubter to a believer almost instantly.”
And now, the FT quotes someone who has worked closely with Apple in the past on car systems saying the following: “Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay … Today I think it’s a car.”
It would be surprising if Apple made a car since Apple makes its money selling personal computers like the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac. It will be selling the Apple Watch, it’s most personal computer ever, as the company calls it.
A car is not a computer. And unlike those other gadgets, a car has a longer upgrade cycle, and crappier margins.
However, Steve Jobs had expressed interest in building a car. He told a New York Times reporter he would have loved to take on Detroit with an Apple car. Former Apple board member Mickey Drexler said Jobs wanted to make a car.
Apple’s current executives have a deep interest in cars.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of internet services, is on the board of Ferrari. Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of marketing, is really into cars. His Twitter bio reads, “Apple, Sports, Cars, Science, Scuba, Drums, Photography. It’s racing season!” The tweet he has pinned to the top of his profile isn’t an Apple product, but a photo of a Porsche.
Last year, Vogue profiled Ive. In that profile, it quoted Ive’s good friend Marc Newson talking about cars:
“Shit we hate,” says Newson, includes American cars. “It’s as if a giant stuck his straw in the exhaust pipe and inflated them,” he adds, “when you look at the beautiful proportions in other cars that have been lost.”
Newson now works part time at Apple, and he has designed cars in the past.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is not known as a car guy, but he did hint that Apple is working on things nobody was aware of. In September, he said , “There are products that we’re working on that no one knows about. That haven’t been rumored about yet.”