US-based iPhone maker Apple has held talks with South Korean automotive manufacturer Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors about building an electric vehicle (EV), though the discussions have been paused recently, according to sources.
Apple has also been discussing similar plans with other auto manufacturers, the people said.
The secret project has gathered pace in recent months and has the potential to upend the automotive industry and its supply chain in a similar way the Apple has reinvented the consumer device market.
In January, Hyundai, which owns a controlling stake in Kia, backed away from a statement that said it was in talks with Apple. That announcement, and other reports of talks, have apparently upset Apple, which keeps development projects secret for years and controls relationships with suppliers with incomparable efficiency.
It’s unclear if, or when, discussions between Apple and Hyundai might resume. There are only a handful of global automakers with the capacity and capability to mass manufacture vehicles, and it’s yet to become clear as to how many of them would be interested in collaborating with Apple.
There are other obstacles, too. One is a dispute within the Hyundai group over which of its two brands, Hyundai or Kia, may get to manufacture a car for Apple, sources said. If talks end up resuming, Kia is seen as more likely to build an Apple car at its plant in the US, said the person.
A key question for the industry is how serious Apple is about taking on America’s Tesla, General Motors and other electric vehicle makers, and whether it needs an established manufacturer to be able to roll out its own product.
Apple has a small team of engineers developing drive systems, as well as designers, but with development work at an early stage, any roll out probably won’t happen for another five years. This suggests that Apple has more time to decide on potential auto-industry partners.