The long-rumored, on-again-off-again Apple Car appears to be on again, even if it's not quite officially yet. Reports have been flying for the last couple months — and according to the latest CNBC report, Apple is closing in on a deal with Kia to use its assembly plant in Georgia.
Apple, according to the report, wants to bring its vehicle to market by 2024 — and more ambitiously, they allegedly want it to be fully self-driving. Apple is are reportedly planning to invest $3.6 billion in the project.
Partnering with Kia would greatly simplify the process of creating a vehicle for Apple. Doing so would give the company access to Hyundai's E-GMP platform, which Hyundai Motor Group is using for an onslaught of electric cars coming in the next few years. They can also avoid painstaking work building production facilities and supply chains by just using Kia's. And if you're going to partner with an automaker, it's hard to find one doing a better job than Kia right now.
Apple appears to have way more planned for this project than slapping their logo on a Telluride with some cameras and LIDAR. The company reportedly poached Manfred Herrer, one of Porsche's top engineers, for the project. And according to Apple Insider, the new car could include some interesting new tech, like multi-user privacy displays and customized driver configurations that adjust automatically when the car recognizes a phone.
Apple product use among the sorts of affluent, tech-savvy people who will be using luxurious, autonomous vehicles would be startlingly high. In a world where the car becomes just another device in your digital ecosystem, having it blend in seamlessly with the rest of your tech ecosystem would be a definite appeal. And there's no reason to think Apple's design aesthetic would probably translate well to cars.
In theory, the market for an Apple Car could be massive. More than 100 million Americans and 700 million people globally use an iPhone. A trifling percentage of Apple customers becoming Apple car buyers would still mean a ton of cars and profits. And for Apple, sitting on a near $200 billion cash reserve, investing a few billion in a car project is the financial equivalent of your friend buying up Gamestop shares for a lark.