While we may have gotten whiplash trying to keep up with the news and rumors, it seems Apple is indeed serious about building a car. This year alone, reports have claimed Apple was negotiating with Hyundai and Kia to build the vehicle at Kia's plant in Georgia. Those negotiations appear to have fallen through, but Apple is seemingly still forging ahead with Project Titan. And according to the latest rumors out of South Korea, the company may build its car without partnering with a major automaker.
South Korean electronics maker LG and Canadian auto-supplier Magna International announced in December they were forming a joint venture, LG Magna e-Powertrain, to produce everything from components to fully-formed electric powertrains. Now, a new report from The Korea Times says Apple is "very near" to becoming their major client.
That production setup would look sort of like the iPhone. LG subsidiaries — already in the Apple supply chain for other products — would provide the components; Magna International, meanwhile, would handle the production, likely at a North American plant.
Apple's advantage in this scenario would be full control over an Apple-branded product, much like they have in tech. Partnering with Kia would have required compromises, and left Apple beholden to and constrained by Kia's platform development and supply chains.
The chief drawback for such an independent arrangement for Apple would limit how many vehicles could be produced. The Apple Car, at least at its onset, would be a far more exclusive and niche item than the iPhone. Then again, Apple could prefer such a limited arrangement, if it wants to test the in the automotive market with a modest — by their terms — investment to prove the concept of an Apple Car works. And if Apple wishes to scale up, hey, they have the cash on hand to buy an automaker like Ford.
The intriguing question may not be how Apple brings Project Titan to fruition, but why they want to. Apple pumped the brakes on the car-building side of the project a short time ago, when it became clear autonomous driving would not be easy or imminent. Has Apple made a technological advancement that brought the project back to the forefront? Or do they simply think the world is ready for a human-driven car with an Apple logo?