Apple Car Contract Will Probably Go To LG And Magna: Report

Illustration for article titled Apple Car Contract Will Probably Go To LG And Magna: Report
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP (Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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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.

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Seems like Cook might’ve finally found some friends willing to help Apple do exactly that.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

Apple is only going to bring what they tend to do everywhere else: A closed-system and brilliant industrial engineering. I am typing this on the first Apple product I ever purchased — a Macbook Air with the new M1 chip.

For the past 15 or so years, I have been a hardcore Linux user, even using it on desktop, but after purchasing my wife a Macbook Air, I realized these laptops were just... really damn good. I wanted one for myself, so I bought one.

Are they more expensive than a comparable machine running Windows? Yes. Does Linux have a lot of practical limitations for many people (like the inability to run Adobe Creative Cloud, many games, etc)? Yes.

Apple makes good stuff. It’s their ecosystem, and it’ll likely be hard to customize, but if you’re just “Joe Consumer” who needs a computer for daily use, it’s a fantastic solution, and I do like the whole ecosystem they offer. (After I got the MacBook Air, I switched to iPhone, got an AppleTV, etc. It all works brilliantly together.)

Do I think that Apple will design a great car? Yes. For who? People who aren’t “car people” like us Jalops. If you’re a super-nerdy computer person who likes to build their own machines, pick your own GPU, loves the whole process of cable management, etc — an Apple computer isn’t for you. (And you know that.) If you’re a “car person” then it’s likely you’ll choose the Audi RS GT Ewhatever thing that’s based on the Taycan. (Eventually, I hope Audi just decides to name their cars a name. I like how Nissan did it in Japan back in the 90s with Cedric, Gloria, etc. I’d drive the hell out of an Audi Dave — just saying. Anyway...)

Here’s what the Apple car will be: Easy to use. Sized for each need. Minimal, with “luxury materials” without overdoing the whole idea of “forced luxury” — like making you think about the engineering. I’d be willing to bet that have a 3, 5, and 7 seat version. The three seater will be a couple with a sideways seat behind the driver and passenger. The 5 will be a quasi crossover with no off-roading intentions. The 7 will be the 5, but longer.

They might even just name them the Apple Auto3, Auto5 and Auto7 — so people understand the conventions. I’d even wager they use a flat-color scheme on the paint, or maybe something satin colored. Shine isn’t their thing.

Will you be excited about it? Probably not. Will it get you and your family from grocery store trips and back? I’d wager yes. Since they’re a tech company, I’d also bet they do well on things like self-driving, automation, getting your garage door open, mapping the car light to turn on your home lights, etc. Things that make your car “feel” more like it’s adding ease to your life.

Would I buy one? Shit, I dunno. I said I’d never buy a Macbook and here I am. Let’s just see what they make, and then we’ll get the pitchforks out later.