Although it is no secret that Apple had been operating a secret “Project Titan,” which was imagined to be its electric—and probably (at least semi-) autonomous—vehicle program, although it was said to have been disbanded, although it was said to be restarted after Doug Field was rehired, a Reuters’ report has gotten legions of Apple fanboys—to say nothing of the investment community—giddier than they already are when it comes to all things Apple.
The vehicle is back, it seems. Launch date: 2024.
Could this happen?
If so, they’d better start rethinking the Genius Bar and figure out how to install hydraulic lifts in the back of the stores.
As Elon Musk discovered—and it should be pointed out that he has Tweeted that he once wanted to sell out to Apple but couldn’t get a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook—building cars is hard.
And this is a challenge whether you’re a long-time manufacturer or someone who has just started within the past few years, trying to take advantage of the “simpler” production requirements of an electric vehicle, compared to one that has an internal combustion engine.
However, as Darren Palmer, global director, Battery Electric Vehicles, a Ford recently told me, “80% of a car is not the drivetrain.” Meaning that it is a challenge to make sures the doors fit, the plastic materials on the inside have consistent coloring, the fascias don’t fall off. And on and on.
Apple doesn’t manufacture its products. That is done for it by companies including Hon Hai Precision Industry (a.k.a., Foxconn), Wistron, Pegatron and so on.
So the likelihood of it building its own vehicles is non-existent.
It would have to work with a company that knows how to make things.
In the auto industry there are companies like Magna, which produces vehicles for companies including BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Jaguar—and for Jaguar it manufacturers the electric i-Pace. Magna has recently entered into an agreement with Fisker. It is working on the engineering of the Fisker Ocean right now and will be performing the manufacturing when it is ready to go.
What’s interesting about Magna is that most people have no idea that it has manufactured so many vehicles.
That is the kind of company that Apple would need to work with.
It knows that building cars is hard (you can see an interview with Magna’s just-retired CEO Don Walker here, where he talks about how tough the task is). It knows how to build them with the highest levels of quality. And it does so while remaining discrete.
Let’s face it: It is one thing if someone has a problem with an iPhone that bends as it shouldn’t or a battery that doesn’t have the life it should and it would be something else entirely were that to be a full-size car or SUV.
Will Project Titan come to fruition?
If it does, Tim Cook will have his hands full. Just ask Elon.