Project Titan: Hyundai agonizes whether to embrace Apple

Hyundai said earlier this month it was in preliminary talks with Apple, but quickly clammed up, almost certainly at the behest of Apple. South Korean media said the firms were discussing an electric car and battery assembly deal.

vehicle under wraps

Hyunjoo Jin and Stephen Nellis for Reuters:

Apple has never acknowledged talks with the automaker about building vehicles, and it was unclear whether any such talks are still active. The iPhone maker typically insists on strict secrecy from its potential partners and suppliers about future plans or unreleased products.

In an earnings call on Tuesday in which it reported its best quarterly profit in over three years, Hyundai did not give any updates on talks with Apple or indicate whether they remain active.

“We are agonizing over how to do it, whether it is good to do it or not,” said a Hyundai executive aware of the internal discussions on the tie-up with Apple. “We are not a company which manufactures cars for others. It is not like working with Apple would always produce great results.”

MacDailyNews Take: Hint: You should be crawling over broken glass to work with Apple.

Few details are known about the talks between the two companies. But people close to the discussions say the options considered included Hyundai or Kia acting as a manufacturer for vehicles designed by Apple and sold under its powerful, ubiquitous brand.

Apple and Hyundai first started talks over a car partnership in 2018, when Apple’s effort, known as “Project Titan,” was headed by Alexander Hitzinger, who is now a Volkswagen executive, said a person familiar with the matter. But progress was hampered by the South Korean automaker’s reluctance to work with outsiders, the person said.

These talks have not been previously reported.

“It is really difficult (for Hyundai) to open up,” this person said, adding that the South Korean company would likely to have to replace some executives to avoid a culture clash under any partnership with Apple. “Apple is the boss. They do their marketing, they do their products, they do their brand. Hyundai is also the boss. That does not really work.”

While the talks are at an early stage, Hyundai Motor Group has “tentatively decided” that it would want Kia to partner with Apple, not Hyundai Motor, a Hyundai insider said.

MacDailyNews Take: Look no further than Foxconn and TMSC to see the benefits of working with Apple as a major supplier.


  1. You’ll have no problem teaming up with Apple, Hyundai, just make sure your TOS meets Tim’s standards and your Golden… Delicious!

  2. ” Hint: You should be crawling over broken glass to work with Apple.” Assuming you don’t mind being taken over because that will be the effect. Could be bad or good, both are companies that sell good products and will both have valid points of view. That’s not as simple a thing as some think>

    1. I agree. It seems unlikely that Apple is really looking for a “partner” as much as it is a manufacturer (like Foxconn). I can imagine Apple is pretty tough on their quality control and would not be a “fun” person to manufacture for, so there’s got to be some lucre to make it all worthwhile. Just because we love Apple’s finished products, doesn’t mean it would be a pleasant experience on the road there. I think the crawling over broken glass thing is kind of over the top.

      Years before Musk commented on it, and before Tesla’s stock went into fantasy land, I saw the possibility for a Tesla/Apple merger or takeover. I hope some day when Tim writes his memoir, we’ll get to find out why he never took that meeting. Musk could have been the charismatic to fill Jobs enormous shoes, and Cook could have focused on all the supply line stuff he was so savantish with. But if Musk is to be believed, Cook didn’t even take the meeting?

      I don’t get it. Maybe there is too much ego between the two corporate cultures, but Tesla has battery tech, solar tech, car tech, and even rocket tech. All of these things have applications to a 10 year horizon for Apple, so I can’t understand why he wouldn’t at least take the meeting. I’m not drinking the Kool Aid for either company (and own shares of AAPL, but not TSLA), but if there was ever one larger acquisition or merger in Apple’s recent past and present, I would have thought there were tremendous symmetries here.

      All of that aside, I completely understand why a major international brand like Hyundai is having to think long and hard about building cars for Apple. The agony and the ecstasy of the possibilities is real.

      And the pre-nup has gotta look like a phone book from the 80s.

      1. “Musk could have been the charismatic to fill Jobs enormous shoes”
        There is your answer right there. Apple buys Tesla, Musk will drive out Cook, just as Jobs drove out Amelio.

        1. Anything is possible, of course, but Tim Cook is an Apple INsider. Amelio was an outsider.

          I believe Cook is too valuable to the core business to be driven out and was personally groomed by Jobs. He simply lacks the charisma and some of the vision of Jobs. Musk could bring some of that “Here’s To the Crazy Ones” charisma and vision, not to mention all that applied technology.

          It seems a moot point now, but in some alternative universe….

  3. This sounds strangely familiar… Apple asks Intel to make their iPhone chip. Intel says that’s dumb, small market, and we won’t make money – no.

    Now Apple is asking Hyundai-KIA to manufacture their vehicles? Not only would that raise their brand even further, they’ll make a boatload of money and learn a lot in the process.

    So that means they’ll probably follow Intel’s footsteps, AMD heads will roll in a few years time.

  4. I would think Hyundai is more worried about being the Motorola ROKR. It’ll have iTunes. But it’s just a stepping stone to total obliteration by the iPhone. I think that’s what Apple is doing here. A partner to help them navigate entry before moving on and leaving the them in the dust. Enabling Apple may mean their eventual demise. For me specifically, I hope they do it 😂

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