- According to credible rumors, Apple is pursuing its stealth Project Titan for the "Apple Car" at a facility in Germany.
- Apple hired automotive industry specialists, including a former Tesla executive and several Tesla engineers.
- Apple is expected to focus on high-tech, all-electric design cars, in direct competition with Tesla models.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has long been rumored to be working on a car project, poised to revolutionize the car world just like the first iPhone revolutionized the phone world in 2007. In September Amigobulls reported credible rumors that the Apple Car was ready for road testing at GoMentum Station, a former naval base in California, now a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles, and on track to shipping to consumers as early as 2019.
The project, codenamed "Project Titan," was designated internally as a "committed project," the number of staff working on the project tripled, and the target ship date was set for 2019, according to people familiar with the matter.
Now, according to credible rumors first revealed by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Apple is developing Project Titan in a research and development lab in central Berlin, The Telegraph reports. While the Apple car - or "iCar" is also being tested and developed in California, it will be made in Austria by Magna Steyr, a brand-independent automotive engineering and manufacturing contractor, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Apple has reportedly hired up to 20 automotive industry specialists with a forward-looking attitude, from a variety of backgrounds including software, hardware, sales and engineering.
Contrary to previous reports, the Apple Car expected to go on sale in either 2019 or 2020, wouldn't be an autonomous self-driving vehicle, at least not at launch. On the other hand, the Apple Car would be all-electric like current Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) models.
The possibility of Apple, the world’s most valuable company, getting into the car game has captured the attention of Silicon Valley and Detroit, notes The Wall Street Journal. With Apple’s track record of striking design and innovation, many car enthusiasts have wondered how the company would rethink automobiles. The magazine Motor Trend ran a cover story with speculations on possible designs, but Apple didn't comment officially.
The automotive website Electrek was the first to reveal that Apple hired former Tesla Vice President of Vehicle Engineering Chris Porritt, previously Aston Martin Chief Engineer. Sources "with knowledge of the matter" at Apple confirmed that Porritt was hired as "Special Projects Group PD Administrator" and senior Apple engineers will be reporting to him. Steve Zadesky, the Apple executive believed to be leading Project Titan, is said to have left the company earlier this year, and speculations point to Porritt succeeding Zadesky as Project Titan head.
A "poaching war" has been going on between Apple and Tesla for some time, and Apple hired several engineers from Tesla, but Porrit would be the first senior Tesla executive to join Apple.
As usual, Apple hasn't confirmed or denied the rumors, but all indications seem to point to a push to advance the development of the Apple Car as a direct competitor to Tesla models. Besides personnel hires, it turns out that many Apple facilities in California have local regulatory filings indicating equipment and/or chemicals tied specifically to the automotive industry. "For those still in denial that Apple is working on a car, you can assume that Apple will use these things for a new iPhone model with wheels and tires," reads a report on The Mac Observer.
Apple has been hiring automotive researchers, including Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a former automated driving researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. It seems likely that, though not expected for the first Apple Car models, fully automated driving is on the Apple development roadmap. However, it appears that at this moment Apple intends to focus on all-electric technology, ergonomics, and design, leaving sophisticated self-driving features for a later stage.
It's worth noting that one of the drivers of Tesla's appeal is that Tesla has an Apple-like image. A Tesla car is a lifestyle and status symbol, and Tesla owners are committed to the brand. Tesla cars are the all-electric, high-tech, design cars that all Silicon Valley tech-savvy and design-conscious consumers want to drive - if they can afford the comparatively high price. Sounds familiar? In fact, these are the same reasons Apple is able to continue selling iPhones and iPads despite competition from cheaper Android phones and tablets.
Therefore, Apple can be expected to carve a profitable niche in the electric car market, which is poised to grow fast. The rumors seem solid enough, and Apple investors should take notice.