Wow, it’s been a hot minute since there was new Apple Car news, huh? Ever since the will-they/won’t-they saga between the tech giant and Hyundai fizzled into the troposphere, things have been astonishingly quiet. Too quiet. Apple needed another willing partner, or partners, to get things moving again. It appears it’s found them in Magna and LG.
Magna and LG’s joint electric powertrain business is reportedly close to inking an agreement with Apple to collaborate on the company’s long-rumored semi-autonomous EV, according to the Korea Times:
“LG Magna e-Powertrain is very near to signing contracts with Apple under which they could handle the initial volume production of Apple EVs. Contract details are still being discussed,” a source familiar with the issue told The Korea Times, Tuesday.
The production volume the joint venture could handle won’t be that huge as Apple is mostly intending to use its first-generation EVs as an opportunity to evaluate their marketability, according to the source. “Because LG Group affiliates including LG Display, LG Chem, LG Energy Solution and LG Innotek are already included in Apple’s parts supply chain, Apple doesn’t have to worry about any supply chain issues. These LG affiliate are qualified to guarantee production yields and faster delivery of parts needed for Apple EVs.”
There are a couple of reasons why this potential deal seems more likely to work out than Apple’s previous flirtation with Hyundai. Magna is a contract manufacturer by trade, of course, and LG is one of Apple’s existing suppliers. LG produces monitors sold via Apple’s retail channels and recently got out of the smartphone game, too. While they’re both tech companies, they’re not necessarily opposing each other in many product categories these days.
What’s more, as suppliers and manufacturers, neither LG nor Magna will likely take issue with Apple claiming all the credit for this car in the way that Hyundai was reportedly very uncomfortable doing.
All in all, it just makes more sense than the Apple-Hyundai partnership, which seemed doomed from the start. The Korean automaker telegraphed its insecurity and ambivalence about the whole proposal every chance it got, and all of us watching were like guests at an ill-advised engagement party that everyone knew was destined to end in tears.
The timing couldn’t be better for LG in particular, which minted its LG Magna e-Powertrain collaboration in December and hacked off its mobile division earlier this month. The joint venture aims to marry “Magna’s strength in electric powertrain systems and world-class automotive manufacturing with LG’s expertise in component development for e-motors and inverters” according to the companies’ shared press release. An Apple EV project would certainly mark quite the new revenue stream to kick things off.
And Apple itself is no longer shying away from admitting that it’s really, really interested in cars. In an interview on the New York Times’ Sway podcast published April 5, Apple CEO Tim Cook compared autonomous cars to robots, adding “we’ll see what Apple does.” NYT’s Kara Swisher pressed Cook on whether that’d take the shape of a full car or merely software, to which Cook responded:
We love to integrate hardware, software and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs. And so that’s what we love to do. And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that.
Seems like Cook might’ve finally found some friends willing to help Apple do exactly that.