For a consumer electronics company that won’t even put a TV on the market, an Apple Car sounds unlikely on paper. But mounting evidence says Apple is gearing up for some type of automotive effort, and at the end of last week we learned that Apple is targeting 2020 for a full-fledged car.
Referencing “people with knowledge of the matter,” Bloomberg reported that Apple wants to put an electric vehicle into production within the next five years. 2020 is a deliciously specific launch date, and, at first glance, this sounds like a long way away. But once you factor in all the hurdles Apple would have to cross, five years is actually an aggressive time frame.
Consider: Apple has no experience or history with cars, save the dashboard tech in CarPlay. Automobile design also requires extensive engineering that’s far beyond anything relating to MacBooks and iPhones. Then there are federal safety and emission regulations to satisfy. And, oh yeah, an Apple Car would have to be a bad-ass ride that captures our imagination unlike any other four-wheeled vehicle before it.
So, 2020? I think that’s ambitious as hell. At least within the scope of Apple’s product launch history. This isn’t a company that rushes head-first down the waterslide.
Snowballing evidence tells us Apple is prepping for some type of automotive effort. 9to5Mac just published an extensive rundown of all the talent Apple has hired in the automotive space, including big brains who’ve worked at companies involved in transmissions, drive trains, seatbelts and other key car systems. Clearly, something is going on in Cupertino – the question is what?
Apple Car: cases for and against
On one hand, Apple has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to innovate. It’s the most successful business in the history of the world, and it just can’t mind its knitting, so to speak, by limiting its product line to mobile gear that weighs under one kilogram. Transitioning to truly mobile gear – cars – is arguably a key strategic manoeuvre that will keep Apple relevant once iPad life cycles stagnate as badly as PCs, and every fanboy and fangirl has bought his or her Apple Watch.
On the flipside, wow, we’re talking about a car. Cars have horribly long life cycles, and part of Apple’s success lies in selling you a new thing every year or two. Cars also have poor profit margins (at least on the low end) and can’t be sold on two-year contracts with a bunch of money-making service plans attached.
Or who knows: perhaps that’s the innovation Apple has in store. Traditional car companies already sell maintenance plans. Perhaps Apple is working on a magic dust plan that’s just too good to turn down.
Regardless, for a company that’s so far shown no interest in the big-screen TV market (ostensibly a natural fit), and a somewhat late-to-the-party approach to the wearables market, the prospect of an Apple Car sounds completely far out. And the possibility of a launch in five years time challenges logic and reason even further.