According to a Financial Times (opens in new tab) report, Nissan was approached by Apple about a potential Apple Car partnership. But any discussions that may have happened were “brief” and never made it to the leadership level, while Nissan has since denied everything (opens in new tab).
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Reportedly, both companies clashed over how the Apple Car would be developed, and what the partnership would involve. A key obstacle was reportedly Apple’s request that the Nissan-made cars carry Apple branding.
The report claims Nissan was concerned that the deal would relegate it to a “hardware supplier” status. Hyundai had similar concerns and was apparently worried Apple might take over production and leave the company as little more than a means to manufacture the car.
Evidently, a number of carmakers have expressed concern that an Apple Car partnership would make them the “Foxconn of the auto industry” — a reference to the Taiwanese company that plays a major role in manufacturing iPhones.
That’s why Kia, a Hyundai subsidiary, was reportedly taking the lead on the Apple car partnership. Hyundai could keep a stake in the Apple Car, albeit at arm’s length, while Kia would reap all the other advantages such a partnership could offer.
Unclear road ahead for Apple Car
Rumors of Hyundai’s role in production has led to some instability in its share price. The price surged by 25% following the reports and has been volatile in the time since Apple reportedly pulled out. So it’s no surprise that Nissan made a statement denying similar rumors and confirmed it was “not in talks” with Apple.
Nissan’s spokesperson did confirm that the company is open to “exploring collaborations and partnerships to accelerate industry transformation.”
However, COO Ashwani Gupta told Financial Times that such partnerships were reliant on partners adapting to Nissan’s services, and not the other way around. Apparently, Nissan has its own customers to worry about and will not “change the way” its cars are made.
Apple has been incredibly secretive about the Apple Car, and still hasn’t made any official announcements about it. What we do know is that it’s said to be a fully-autonomous car with a “monocell” battery design that reportedly improves both range and safety. The car is also designed to be a privately owned vehicle, rather than part of a fleet of autonomous ride-sharing cars.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on when the car might arrive. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has estimated that the car could arrive as early as 2024, though other estimates don’t see the car arriving until 2025 or even 2026.
The fact that Apple still doesn’t have a manufacturing partner doesn’t bode well for the possibility of an early launch, and these setbacks certainly aren’t going to help. Still, there's an entire industry of car makers out there, so Apple has plenty of places to go and try to get its car built.