Apple CEO Cook: ‘Massive change’ is coming to the auto industry

“Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the automotive industry is at the precipice of ‘massive change’ — though he stopped short of saying whether the world’s largest publicly traded company would play a role in that transformation,” Dawn Chmielewski reports for Re/code.

“‘It would seem like there will be massive change in that industry, massive change,’ Cook said on Monday night at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference at The Montage resort in Laguna Beach, Calif.,” Chmielewski reports. “Cook, who was interviewed onstage by WSJ executive editor, Gerard Baker, declined to respond to published reports that Apple is developing an electric car that might hit the road as soon as 2019. Cook said that, in the short term, Apple is working to bring the “iPhone experience” to the vehicle through CarPlay, its in-dash system that creates a way for users to access their iTunes music collections or get driving directions from its mapping software without touching their phones. ‘We’ll see what we do in the future,’ Cook said, leaving open the tantalizing prospect of more. ‘I do think that the industry is at an inflection point for massive change.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And who will usher in that massive change? 😉

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What to expect from the Apple Car: Disruption – August 31, 2015
Apple Car: Tesla engineer joins Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ vehicle effort – August 21, 2015
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Apple’s massive fuel cell energy project to be largest in the U.S. – April 4, 2012
Apple patent application reveals next-gen fuel cell powered Macs and iOS devices – December 22, 2011
Apple patent app details highly-advanced hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices – October 20, 2011

23 Comments

  1. The problem for the auto manufacturers is that they don’t want a massive change and are trying to resist it. They would do much better to accept that electrical powered vehicles and more sophisticated software is inevitably going to happen and that they would benefit from embracing it willingly rather than to resist it and try to do their own limited thing instead.

    There are very few examples of a large industry suddenly pivoting and successfully moving in a different direction and I see no sign of it happening with the auto industry. The change is almost certainly going to happen from outside of that industry and the big manufacturers will end up wondering what hit them.

    Companies such as Ford and GM should take lessons from what happened to big businesses like Kodak, Nokia, Woolworth and Blockbuster, but they don’t want to listen.

    1. IBM successfully pivoted away from desktop computing towards services and support, although it wasn’t a tectonic change, nor was it painless.

      Generally, you are absolutely right, large companies can’t execute a course change (Apple may be the only exception).

      Auto industry currently relies heavily on fossil fuel lobby. If we could take all the US government subsidies for fossil fuel producers (estimated to be between $20-50 billion!!) and redirect them into renewable energy research and development, we would have significant independence from fossil fuel in five years. Those subsidies represent a rather minuscule percentage of total spending on fossil fuel (which is in America close to $1 trillion per year), so the price of gasoline at the pump would be minimally affected if the subsidies were to go.

      But that is of course never going to happen; big oil, big coal and other big fossil lobbies won’t allow it, and in America, renewable energy will always be a red-headed step child…

      1. Apple is different because there’s an in-built base of individual (end-user consumer) fans.

        Microsoft and IBM could not because although they also had plenty of consumer fans, their big-paying fans were IT departments who themselves are risk-averse and (upfront) cost-sensitive.

        Meanwhile, the auto and medical industries are both heavily regulated. It’s not surprising that lower-margin industries that have to pay significantly toward regulatory compliance are more risk averse too.

    2. A futurologist once noted that the future is already here, you just need to know where to look for it, since it is not yet widely distributed. He also noted that it is almost as if the future rolls into the present in slow motion. Again, if you know what to look for. We see this happening now with the car industry. And, in fact, with the entire transportation sector. (Houses and buildings are a whole other story.)

      Look at iPhones, iPads, digital cameras, and streaming internet as a few examples. A lot of people use them, but few probably appreciate them as advanced technology products worthy of Star Trek, the Jetsons, and Dick Tracy science fiction fantasy. When they were launched, they were just seen as some new-fangled products. And Apple’s share price probably dropped.

      People have far more important things to think about than the future. For example… Consumers dicker about whether “rose gold” is suitably manly. The DOJ convinces itself that Apple has ever done anything innovative in its existence except as a clever guise to bilk unwitting consumers. Wall Street frets about a few million devices one way or the other every quarter. Pundits calculate the long odds of “lighting striking” Apple once attain. (Hint to pundits: the odds are considerably higher if you consider Apple more like a lightning rod than a randomly-selected spot on the earth’s surface. The Empire State Building gets hit by lightning about 20 times per year. Put your money on the lightning rod.)

      Apple implements the future better than anyone on the planet. It does not matter if anyone (eg, the car industry) sees it coming or not. Because it won’t change anything on Apple’s part.

      As long as the future is technology-, design-, and quality-laden (and environmentally-friendly) Apple is better positioned than most companies to help bring the future into the present.

      The car industry is no exception.

  2. There already is disruption , it just has not fully played out.

    When Apple, Commodore, Sinclair and others introduced personal computers the world was changed, but it took a long time for the impact to be fully felt.

    If you have driven or been a passenger in a Tesla you know that the internal combustion engine is making a nostalgia tour.

  3. Toyota gets credit for the Prius and the popularity of hybrid EV’s.

    Tesla gets credit for the infrastructure necessary for all-electric vehicles, and for opening their intellectual property for adoption by other companies.

    But the greatest transformation will be autonomous vehicles, and not necessarily just electric ones. Apple and Google are working hard to be in that place when it happens, but Tesla is already there and waiting to flick the switch (all Tesla’s are already autonomous-capable via software upgrade).

    1. I think you are optimistic, even Musk admitted their switch turning exercise of late is still well short of autonomous vehicals. They will be important within limited highly regulated uses for done time to come though cars as we know them will take on many such features gradually do that humans can gain faith in them. That isn’t going to happen overnight whatever Google might trumpet, we don’t even have test accepted with grins as yet where it is far more logical and easily implimented. At present I think we are still in the ‘we will all be wearing silver suits by the year 2000’ phase.

    2. Tesla has certainly accomplished quite a bit with regard to moving the ball forward and getting people excited about electric cars. However, it remains mostly a curiosity at this point and hasn’t really pushed into the mainstream. Yes, what infrastructure exists today can be attributed to Tesla, but it’s so sparse that it’s not practical yet.

      In order to move the ball forward to the next step, we need vehicles that are more affordable, vehicles with longer ranges and significantly more infrastructure. I don’t know if Apple is the company to make that happen, but they do have one thing that Tesla doesn’t have that could make the difference. Tons of capital to invest in infrastructure. Apple is in a position to build all of this out and take a big risk without betting the farm.

      1. Agree. We need mainstream electric cars that are more affordable and have substantially greater ranges. And that are designed for use by a broader range of people.

        Tesla’s early cars are speedsters. The electric equivalent of muscle cars of the 1970s which are meant to indulge people’s egos rather than to provide basic transportation. Who actually needs to go from 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds? We would all be better off focusing on increasing driving range rather than rapid acceleration. Driving fast may feel exciting but is it a waste of energy.

        To the extent electricity is still produced from carbon fuels (coal, natural gas, diesel), we must calculate the CO2 produced to create the energy needed to charge and run EVs, (both plug-ins and pure EVs).

        The car that produces the LEAST carbon dioxide — whether from gas, electricity, or a combination — will be better for the planet.

    1. I think it’s going to be bad news for Detroit and for any other area with traditional car manufacturing factories, but the problem is with the mindset of those manufacturers. If the auto manufacturers would embrace electrically powered vehicles in a way that Apple would envisage them, then they could play an important role in production and enjoy the benefits. As it stands, the auto manufacturers can only envisage an electrical car as being a conventional car with a different engine. They would like everything else about it to be exactly the same as now. They’re still living in the time when all cellphones would need to have physical keyboards.

      I have no doubt that Apple will launch something quite unlike existing cars and that there will be little need of existing car manufacturing facilities for their production.

      The auto manufactures haven’t been receptive to Apple’s approaches over CarPlay, it’s taken years to get it into just a small number of new models, yet the in-car entertainment software fitted into cars has been almost universally abysmal. Some have stated their absolute opposition to cars being controlled by software originating from Apple or Google and are convinced that they can do better.

      Apple doesn’t necessarily need them, but could productively partner with an enlightened manufacturer if one could be found. As things stand they will most certainly end up regretting attempting to freeze Apple out because Apple has more than enough resources to go it alone without involvement from the conventional car manufacturers.

    1. Awesome people live in the Detroit Metro area. Great sports (sans Lions), lots of hardworking smart people. Good schools. But they say that every auto company job supports 3 non-auto maker jobs in restaurants, schools, manufacturing, tooling, insurance, etc. if the car companies get really squeezed a lot of good Michiganders are going to be squeezed, not to mention a good number of retirees on pensions.

      It’s no reason for Apple or Tesla to not pursue disruption, of course. But the effect would be widely felt. I wouldn’t be surprised to see people buying more clunky automobiles for just this reason – to support the region.

      Hey Apple, people in Michigan make things in our sleep. We kick ass when it comes to manufacturing. Invest here and we’ll shock you with our versatility and get-it-done attitude. Go Michigan!

      1. You know, Tesla manufactures its cars in a former GM plant. All is not lost. A good factory is a good factory. A motivated and prepared workforce is always a good thing.

        But Tesla has a different business model. They don’t have annual new product introductions and pump out hundreds of thousands of spec built cars, marginal changed from last years model, to be shipped to dealers for a consumer abuse party called the Dealership. Their prices are set, there is no negotiation and the car you get is the one you ordered. Unless there was a product upgrade between the time you ordered and your car was built, in which circumstance you get the upgraded model, delivered direct fro Tesla to you. Very different from the Big Three.

        I was watching an Animal Planet pet rescue show set in Detroit. The structure of the show had lots of shots in the neighborhoods around Detroit. I was struck by the gorgeous houses and nice looking streets. Seems right for gentrification by millennials building exciting new products.

        Rust can be reversed by the proper application of electric current. But I suspect you have a management problem, rather than engineering or manufacturing. GM already blew a 10 year head start in EV cars once. I’m pretty sure they can screw it up again. Good luck.

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