iCar fever

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Is Apple really building a car? Will Steve Jobs’ dream of having his own automotive division come true posthumously? The rumors are speading. The iPhone company continues to recruit electromobility specialists—even from their conventional carmaker competitors.

Those who are generally well informed have a lot to do these days. The completely emission-free iCar is making its way through the media in the form of a self-driving minivan. Apparently, several hundred people are now working on the project with the codename “Titan”. They are being led by Steve Zadesky, if the “Wall Street Journal” proves correct. That would, however, make sense, seeing how the Apple veteran came from carmaker Ford 15 years ago. Now an army of 1,000 Apple employees has risen up around him.

Which is why recruiting efforts are as rigorous as ever: They are bring in battery specialists from Samsung and A123 and electromobility experts from neighbor Tesla. Former President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz’s development division in Silicon Valley, Johann Jungwirth, has also landed at Apple. At Daimler, he was supposed to integrate smartphones into autonomous automobiles.

According to other rumors, Apple wants to begin production in 2020. Which is more than generous, seeing how conventiona carmakers need 5–7 years to develop a new car.

Still, Apple’s car plans aren’t really entirely new. In an interview several years ago, Milliard Drexler, a member of the Apple Board, revealed that Steve Jobs wanted to design an iCar. After the success of the iPod player, he seriously considered whether his next products might include a camera or an automobile.

“Conventional” carmakers getting worried

All these rumors may very well be causing the electromobility worry lines of “conventional” carmakers to get deeper. Of course, building an iPhone is a little different than building an automobile. On the other hand, Tesla and Google have demonstrated what’s possible in the emission-free world if you have money and perserverance. And unlike Tesla and Google, Apple can certainly score some points with its cult brand.

Add to that the fact that digital networking will account for an increasingly large portion of added value in automobiles in the future. And it’s easier to ride the digital wave in Silicon Valley than in Wolfsburg, Munich or Stuttgart.

For now, however, the iCar is still something that is being churned out by the rumor mill, although concrete details are becoming increasingly clear. For a company that is as marketing-driven as Apple, that’s money in the bank. And even though the Cupertinonians didn’t start the rumor themselves, they are certain to be enjoying it. Otherwise, 150 billlion “fluid” dollars goes a long way toward trying plenty of other things—including a smartphone on wheels. Apple’s next big thing?

Apple iCar designstudy

Franco Grassi’s best guess at Apple iCar design. (Image: Franco Grassi)