Apple’s project ‘Titan’ gears up to challenge Tesla in electric cars

“Apple Inc. has revolutionized music and phones. Now it is aiming at a much bigger target: automobiles,” Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Ramsey report for The Wall Street Journal.

“The Cupertino, Calif., company has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, code-named ‘Titan,’ initially is working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of the people said,” Wakabayashi and Ramsey report. “Apple often investigates technologies and potential products, going as far as building multiple prototypes for some things that it won’t ever sell. Any car would take several years to complete and obtain safety certifications.”

“But the size of the project team and the senior people involved indicate that the company is serious, these people said. Apple executives have flown to Austria to meet with contract manufacturers for high-end cars including the Magna Steyr unit of Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc.,” Wakabayashi and Ramsey report. “Apple hopes to put its stamp on the electric vehicle market in the same way it did the smartphone with its iPhone, said a person familiar with its work.”

“Mr. Cook approved the car project almost a year ago and assigned veteran product design Vice President Steve Zadesky to lead the group, the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Zadesky is a former Ford engineer who helped lead the Apple teams that created the iPod and iPhone,” Wakabayashi and Ramsey report. “In September, Apple hired Johann Jungwirth, who had been the president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, which has operations in Sunnyvale, Calif., near Apple’s campus, according to his LinkedIn profile.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Forget Tesla, here’s some advice for the entire automobile industry: Cower in fear.

But, first, give us some quotes along the lines of how “PC guys are not going to just walk in.” It’s way more fun that way!

Related articles:
Apple’s next big thing: The Apple Car? – February 13, 2015
Apple hiring auto engineers and designers – February 13, 2015

113 Comments

    1. electric cars need to be plugged in, which usually not good for city folks or apt dwellers. there is still no infrastructure either. The 3 wheeled Elio might be where its at

      1. Unless you live in a northern Canadian City like Winnipeg where being able to plug in a block heater is a necessity so the infrastructure is in place (Apple that may be a good place to field test).

      2. Personally I think Apple should be working on ways to remove automobiles from the road, not add more. In Los Angeles, every morning 9 million people try to get from one end of the city to the other, all in different directions, all in different cars, just so they can sit in a cubicle and send the same stupid emails they could have sent from home. Apple should be pursuing the true virtual office, making people realize it’s already a reality. Who needs more cars?

        1. You know, you need to travel. L.A. is not all the world there is. In many cities and towns around the globe, a car is a necessity. On the other hand, a car is a social status gauge. Tell me which car you drive and I’ll tell you how successful you’ve been in life; like smartphones, tell me which phone you use, an iPhone or an Android, and I’ll tell you if you’re a loser. Moreover, that’s the way it’s been for ages: in the wild west in USA, in revolutionary France, in protestant England, in nascent independent México, a horse was a must in every family. It’s the same with cars now. People love their cars, they are extension of our home. Don’t be so self centered, L.A. and USA are not all the world there is… and Apple knows it.

      3. There are already charging stations and spaces with plugs in NYC – not uncommon to see a tesla or 2 plugged in.

        Apple would be most inspired by Volkswagen as far as esprit.

    2. The fact that Apple is so readily letting this info “leak” means there is something (at least an official announcement on the subject) happening sooner, rather than later.

      The first endeavor will likely be a partnership with a smaller existing automaker, that will fully integrate existing (and known) Apple technologies into an existing hybrid-electric vehicle technical design. It will be a “smart car” with an official Apple logo and mostly cosmetic makeover. Apple is not designing the first “Apple Car” from the ground up.

      Over time, Apple will influence (more and more) the overall design of vehicles that have the Apple logo. But like with iPhones, iPads, and Macs (and unlike major automakers), Apple will not own the facilities that manufacture those vehicles.

  1. An Apple electric car? Wow! The present offerings remind me of the early PC industry. If Apple can do for the auto industry what it’s done for the PC industry Apple will soon be a $2T company.

    1. No kidding – suddenly $2 trillion doesn’t sound so crazy. I can’t believe I am saying a computer company could make a car, but Apple has shown they can do whatever they focus on.

      I see Apple as Coke, Tesla as Pepsi (a worthy competitor for a change), and the old guard of automobiles as yesterday’s watered down sugar water. No way are GM, Ford, etc. willing to go all in and cannibalize themselves like they need to if Apple is their new competitor.

      “Gasoline? Where we are going we don’t need gasoline.”

      Only thing that would get me more excited is if Apple started designing consumer spaceships.

    2. A great idea but there are hurdles to the electric car
      1. With a lot of electric cars, how many more power plants will have to be built.
      2. Will they be able to supplement the power usage with solar panels in the roof of the car?
      3. Will the governments tax the recharging process. Of course they will.
      4. Will too much power be used to cool and heat the car?
      5. Will the batteries be recycled or do we create massive toxic dumps after the batteries wear out?
      6. Are nuclear sources better for the environment?
      7.Are they as good or cheap as hybrid cars? These are my favourites for future domination of the car industry?
      8. Will the average person ever be able to afford one?
      …and likely a lot more. That said I like that a company with Apple’s current green history is going into cars.

      1. That’s nothing compared to the hoops car manufactures have to jump through to build a gasoline powered car. Have you opened a car hood lately and seen what they have to put in to make composition engine work?

    3. The present offerings remind you of the early PC industry? Have you examined a modern automobile lately? From drive train to internal imformation systems to built in entertainment systems they are rolling monuments of computerization that honestly seldom ever break down with far less maintenance than ever before. And those are the cheap ones! I mean what are you driving? A 67 Mazda or something?

      1. Have you examined a modern electric utility power plant lately? I spent a good part of my career modernizing large power plants built in the 1950’s to 1970’s by replacing the original control systems with distributed control systems like the Bailey Infi90 systems. Modern fossil fueled power plants can have 50,000 data measurement points, and use all of the same basic systems that ICE based automobiles do including combustion controls and emissions controls like EGR, but those power plant systems are a LOT more sophisticated. For instance, the excess O2 sensor circuits in your “modern” automobile tell the ECM only whether there is too much or too little excess O2 in the exhaust stream. The system then responds by over correcting the fuel mixture in the other direction. If this process occurs enough times per second it sort of approximates a true proportional feedback loop, as has been used in large power plants for decades. Large power plant combustion controls also use standard instrumentation and control algorithms including proportional gain, integral, approach, and derivative functions. These are he state of the art, but they are not included in any automotive systems that I know of.

        As a matter of fact, I drive a Mercedes GL450, a Suburban 2500 as a tow vehicle, a Honda Civic, and a Toyota compact pickup, all relatively new. I maintain them using Movi Pro on my Macbook to analyze live OBDII data. I can see exactly how primitive the control systems in these cars remain. Not much has changed in the past 20 years in the automotive world.

    1. Honda would be a good hook up for Apple. Most enjoyable car I ever owned was my (Japan-built) Civic in the latter 80s. It just worked, used very little fuel and I sold it 5 years and 120,000 kms later for a few hundred MORE than I paid for it (to a young bloke who was ‘stoked’ to score it).

      1. Honda are a bit like Sony mind. Technically (at least historically) the best and most innovative of the Japanese producers but somewhat fading from what it once represented. It’s why it’s trying to get back into F1 though judging by first testing they have a long long way to go to reach former glories.

        1. Honda has been my favorite for some time, and I just purchased my fourth new one last week; a Crosstour EX-L V6 4 wheel drive. I’m really liking it since a cross-over fits my current needs, but there are definitely areas that could be improved in ergonomics.

          The dash is way too complex and fussy, and you really need the humongous manual to figure out setting and programming everything. I think Apple could show them a thing or two in that regard.

          And I feel Honda is run by too many stodgy old codgers who don’t want to take a chance on alienating their customer base. Heck, they can’t even come out with some lively colors on their vehicles, and seem to dwell on bland.

          Right now I think styling-wise that Chevy and Kia are the most attractive. But, since I want a car for the long haul I trust Honda the most.

          1. Never let Japanese engineers design a menu system for human use. Cameras, ham radios, televisions, all terrible. They are too detail oriented and like lots of features, but don’t seem to be able to put first things first.

            That said, I’ve had at least one Honda in my stable since 1978. They have been solid, trouble-free and held their value well. I’m hoping to see a Honda electric and I absolutely would dance a jig on the news of an Apple-Honda joint venture.

            1. Ironic, because traditionally, Japanese artists were charge of interfaces and Apple has a traditional Japanese ethos at its core. It’s only recently (the 80s) that Japan gave engineers free reign to design interfaces. You look at the traditional esthetic of older Japanese interfaces and they are simple, clear and elegant.

  2. Apple may be working on a ‘proof of concept’ car, with speed, distance, and road condition sensors, front and rear for automatic anti-collision braking. Throw in GPS, iPhone/iPad for automatic emergency notification of collision to 911 operator. Add Apple’s special innovations to have everything work seamlessly together. Provide sensors, software, hardware, and expertise to license to auto industry. Apple licensed technology for installation. First one, then another automaker, until industrywide. 😀

  3. Pie in the sky… Even if true a car would be years and years away.

    However, I would suggest Apple would do much better at taking over the automation that cars need. Cars are drive by wire more and more each year so Apple could easily be planning a future version of the Apple CarPlay going beyond the dash to take on car driving controls, safety, and more 🙂

    1. Agreed. You’re on the right track. The scale of putting a car on the road – from scratch – seems pretty daunting to me. Despite the reports, I’m still leery of Apple being able to pull off something of this magnitude. Revisit the speculation on something little like the Apple Watch rollout.

  4. What are Apple going to do when their top executives start getting phone calls from somewhere high up in the oil industry, threatening to post their family members to them in little pieces?

    1. You kidding me? Big Oil will be virtually nonexistent in 30 to 40 years. There is only a finite amount of oil that can be economicly pumped out and used in as fuel. We are getting close to the end.

      Big Oil will not worry about electric battery locomotion wiping out gas or diesel vehicles. Big Oil already knows the end is nye.

  5. I’m skeptical. I just don’t think it makes economic sense for Apple to do this. Teslas, while great cars, aren’t really flying out of the showrooms. And you still have the specter of the other U.S. and foreign car makers trying to expand their electric car market. And what happens to AAPL if there’s a loss as a result of too few units being sold – and we all know how Wall Street likes to hose AAPL for the silliest of reasons.

    Maybe Apple is working with BMW to technologically enhance their new electric cars, but, how can Apple reinvent the electric wheel? Heck, just look at all of the turmoil regarding the price of an Apple Watch and how many people will buy one. Do you think Apple will sell a profitable bunch of $75,000 electric cars? Idunno, something just doesn’t smell right on this one.

      1. And at the end of the day BMW is a small volume company by comparison, dont get me wrong I still love them , was an employee of BMW North America and probably should not have left.

        Not sure what the real point of Tesla is. It’s what we call a “boutique auto maker” Some guy gets this idea;” hey lets become an auto maker” in the same sense as some rich lady who likes to buy beautiful expensive clothes goes downtown, leases a shop, and suddenly considers herself a “major clothing manufacturer” Until reality intrudes a few months later.

        Remember, Ferrari would not exist today had not Fiat came in and saved their financial bacon. Well, same for Chrysler too.

        And we are not even seriously thinking about electricity supply, they will be totally useless in cold weather areas ( I know, you “sophisticates” think we dont matter, just keep thinking that)

        Sorry, but serious auto manufacturing and marketing is nothing like a small shop in California producing admittedly beautifully styled cars at very low volume while losing money.

        Apple is the best computer company in the world, but thats actually a lot less complex world.

        1. Tesla’s problem is that they need more money (cash) to take it to the next level, Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Porsche, Audi, VW are all a lot richer and are all in it for the long haul. (no sell outs).

          1. They could (and should) make a profit to generate that cash just like us business people in the real world have to do.

            Will they do that? Maybe, but I wouldn’t buy stock in something that is projected to maybe turn a profit by 2018.

    1. Actually, Tesla is selling every car they can make and is expanding capacity as rapidly as they can. The waiting list is months long. They do this even while several states have prohibited them from selling, since the Tesla stores are all company owned, so no dealerships.

      One of Teslas development regrets was going outside for technical help. The original roadster was a bastardized version of some Lotus that compromised a lot. The Model S was designed and built in-house and most owners say it is the best car they’ve ever been in.

      Given that history, I have doubts about a contract manufacturing approach for cars. OK for low volume, high dollar fashion statements, not very good for hundreds of thousands or millions per year products that many people use. The contract vehicle manufacturing industry is considerably less well developed than the contract electronics manufacturing industry. Since Apple doesn’t like to do its own manufacturing, I’m doubtful they will bring a vehicle to market.

        1. Lotus have probably done more for innovation in sports and racing cars than anybody, the Elise used leading edge bonded panels and the space this made available for batteries was a perfect base for the Roadster on which Tesla learnt its trade.

      1. Apple’s probably the only company around that can easily afford to build tool and put together an afficient top notch turnkey manufacturing facility …it will be a national model.

      2. I apologize for my awkward statement about Lotus. Not bashing Lotus, they are great, but the Tesla roadster took a lot of work to make into an electric car. At the end of the day, it wasn’t the best Lotus possible or the best Tesla possible. Perhaps a better word would have been “compromised”. My statement was based on this interview:

        https://gigaom.com/2014/05/14/tesla-ceo-elon-musk-we-should-have-designed-an-all-original-car-from-the-beginning/

        As far as Apple goes, they absolutely have the money and capability to design, build and fabricate an absolutely great car. And it won’t be running Windows (come on Musk, what are you thinking). But their tendency is to not manufacture hardware with Apple employees as the workforce, and the article states Apple has been meeting with contract automobile manufacturers.

        The existing automotive contract manufacturing isn’t up to mainstream automotive capacity. They make hundreds or thousands of cars per year, at most. To compare, Honda alone makes about 400,000 Accords for the US market and maybe 1,000,000 every year worldwide. And that is only 25% of their total annual production. Maybe Apple would aim at being a BMW or Volvo sized player, still pretty accessible for people. The other players at that size build in company owned facilities with company employees who have health care and vacation days and 401Ks, etc, etc. That’s a new direction for Apple, potentially great.

        So, is Apple looking to build trinkets for the 1% or something that changes the lives of everyone and makes a mark on the universe? I don’t know, but I hope I’m able to participate, and I really hope I want to.

    2. Exactly! Just look at Tesla. It’s a successful company, but they’re just selling to the rich, not to middle class. They’re just priced too high(<$70k) to be owned by the masses. That's where the Model E will come in($30k). Now, I understand that Apple always goes for quality regardless of price and that's worked pretty well so far, but there's a big difference between a $2500 laptop and a $70,000 car.

      Even look at the Apple Watch, it's really neat and it has a lot of bells and whistles, but starting at $350, it's just too expensive for practicality. And yet, the Pebble Steel can be purchased for $100 less, or if you're more concerned about price than style, you can get the regular Pebble for $250 less than the Apple Watch.

  6. In 2004-5 Apple collaborated with Motorola on the Rokr E1 iTunes enabled phone — a smoke screen that allowed them to gain valuable knowledge about the cell phone industry and related technologies. You remember Motorola. They used to be #1. Now Apple is doing the same thing again with CarPlay and the auto industry! Will Apple do to their auto industry partners what they did to Moto?

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