The Apple Car has the green light, judging by the phase in which the leaks are: the search for a manufacturing partner. Building hundreds of thousands of vehicles is a very different challenge than making just one. Hence, Apple, which with the iPhone turns to Foxconn, needs to forge an alliance with someone willing.
Here, Apple has the upper hand, as the Hyundai-Kia fiasco shows. Although time is not pressing, it is a priority to find a way to materialize Apple’s most ambitious project to date: the personal transport revolution.
The large automotive groups that are candidates to manufacture the Apple Car
Classifying the various car manufacturers in the world based on their number of units sold is not an easy task. Manufacturers report numbers in different ways, and they don’t always mean the same thing. Here manufactured units are mixed with units sent to dealers, but neither mentions how many are sold to the end customer.
So it is important not to be obsessed with numbers and to use them only as a guide. In addition, the 2020 figures have been affected by the pandemic, so we must resort to those of previous years to get an idea of what the automotive market is like. From the 2018 figures, we obtain this ranking:
- Volkswagen Group: 10.8 million units. It includes brands such as Volkswagen, Audi, Seat or Porsche.
- Toyota: 10.5 million units. Besides Toyota, it has Lexus and Daihatsu.
- Renault-Nissan-Mitshubishi Alliance: 10.3 million units. With those already mentioned and others like Dacia or Infiniti.
- General Motors: 8.7 million units. He got rid of Open a year earlier, keeping Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, among others.
- Hyundai Motor Group: 7.5 million units. Integra Kia and Genesis in the group.
There are others like Ford, Honda, Fiat Chrysler and the PSA Group that are around 5 million units or less. Apple could choose one of them, with its own advantages and disadvantages. But for now we will focus on the components of the ranking for the next step.
The electric vehicle platform as an essential step for the Apple Car
One aspect these manufacturers take into account is the existence of an electric vehicle platform. The platform is a way for car companies to use the same kit on different car models, something they have been doing for decades. With an electric vehicle platform, you can further develop it and reduce costs, as a way to make models more affordable.
The five mentioned already have their own platform for their current electric vehicles. Specifically :
- Volkswagen: MEB platform for models such as the ID3 and ID4, Seat El Born, Audi Q4 e-tron and Skoda Enyaq. It will give a range between 330 and 550 kilometers.
- Toyota: called Electric New Generation Architecture e-TNGA. For models such as Toyota C-HR, Lexus UX300e. It gives a range of 300 to 600 kilometers.
- RNM: CMF-EV platform. Only concepts, like the Nissan Ariya or Renault Morphoz. Range from 400 to 700 kilometers.
- General Motors: Global EV platform for Cruise Origin, Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer. With autonomy of up to 643 kilometers.
- Hyundai: E-GMP global platform . For the Hyundai 45 and Prophecy models, as well as the Kia Imagine. With autonomy of 350 to 500 kilometers.
Each one has different degrees of advancement, with more or less long ranges and larger or more compact models. Depending on Apple’s needs, you could go for one or the other, although some of these names are already crossed out. We must remember that Hyundai was about to sign an agreement with Apple, even going so far as to disclose the alliance in a press release.
It is clear that Apple has backed down from the indiscretion of the South Koreans. Volkswagen spent time as a partner for an Apple employee transportation service in California, although the relationship appears to have gone sour. We can be sure of this with yesterday’s statements from the manufacturer’s CEO, who claimed “not to be afraid” of Apple’s entry. One does not speak like that of a partner.
The case of Magna, the Foxconn of the automobile
The deal with Apple for apple car can be very attractive to certain manufacturers, especially now that the coronavirus crisis has precipitated sales. Factories have capacity and may be inclined to fill it in part with an order from a customer like Apple. However, they would have to allow their brand to be relegated to Apple’s, a point that not everyone may be willing to take (in fact, there were internal debates at Hyundai about it).
That is why there is another candidate that could be a much better fit than any of the big manufacturers. It is the Canadian Magna International, a company specialized in the manufacture of products for third parties. One way to understand it is to liken it to Foxconn, the company that assembles products like the iPhone for Apple. Thus, Magna and its subsidiaries have several models of cars manufactured for other brands.
For example, its plant in Graz, Austria, has been responsible for assembling the BMW X3 and X5, the Mini Paceman and Countryman, various Jaguar and Mercedes models, as well as the Chrysler 300C or Aston Martin Rapide. It has to its credit the most varied models, both utilitarian and sports or SUVs. More media models such as Fisker’s electric SUV are also produced at Magna plants.
Fisker’s Ocean will ride on Magna Steyr’s European-made electric vehicle platform, so it also features this important development . Magna was also one of the companies that Apple spoke to five years ago when Project Titan launched. Of course, Apple has plenty of options after the Hyundai fiasco and open hostility from Volkswagen. Some analysts predict that Apple will close a public alliance with a manufacturer throughout this same 2021 for apple car manufacturing. So the news should not take long.