For about five minutes last week I started to actually believe Apple — the company that makes iPhones and other electronic devices — would actually be making a car, this time with Hyundai/Kia. Of course, yesterday, reports emerged that, actually, it wasn’t happening in the end.
And today Hyundai and Kia formally said it.
From The Wall Street Journal:
In regulatory filings, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Corp. said they are “not in talks with Apple over developing an autonomous vehicle.” The two auto makers have fielded multiple requests from other firms to jointly develop autonomous electric vehicles, though no initial steps have been determined, according to the regulatory filings.
The companies had held talks with the Cupertino, Calif., technology giant about a deal for Hyundai subsidiary Kia to build vehicles for Apple in Georgia, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. The prospect of an auto partnership had sent the Korean companies’ stocks soaring this year, igniting investor enthusiasm after both Kia and Hyundai had suffered years of slumping car sales.
Shares sank 6% for Hyundai Motor following Monday’s regulatory-filing disclosures, while Kia plunged by more than 13%.
The Apple Car remains for me an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it situation, as even if Apple started now this project it’d be years from seeing the light of day. That’s because developing a new car — from sketch to concept to mass production — generally takes three to five years, and that’s for automakers that have decades of experience developing new cars.
Sure, Apple could perhaps shortcut that a bit by partnering with an established car company like Hyundai/Kia, but it’s hard to see what special expertise Apple brings to the table; it took Tesla 15 years to become a viable automaker. It’s also hard to see what innovations Apple would bring to cars. What’s the killer app? Because I have a feeling that “CarPlay but better integrated” won’t do the trick. Maybe the killer app is “autonomy but it actually works” but then we are back into I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it land.
And while this could all presage Apple still tying up with Hyundai/Kia or another automaker, with each new delay an Apple Car feels further and further away.
And all of that said I’m old enough to remember when Blackberry and Nokia were the dominant players in the cell phone market. And then in 2007, the iPhone was introduced — truly wasn’t all that great in the beginning. But then it got better. And then, by the time of iPhone 4 and 5, Apple was producing what might be the best phones ever made. So, yes, don’t underestimate this company, but also what have they done since then that’s really moved the needle? “Better iPads” do not count.