Apple Car was forced to downgrade. Why hasn’t Apple built a car in ten years?

In 2014, Jacky Cheung released the album "Waking and Dreaming" in his 30th year in the music scene. This album is considered to be Jacky Cheung's third fever album after "True Love" and "Private Corner".

In the same year, Apple’s “Project Titan” was launched, authorized by CEO Tim Cook, and recruited more than 1,000 employees. It also met with Austrian car company Magna Steyr in the hope of reaching cooperation.

Ten years later, Jacky Cheung, who has been in the industry for 40 years, released a new single "Another Ten Years". Apple's "Project Titan" seems to have given up on looking for a "blockbuster" opportunity, and only hopes that the product can be successfully launched, nothing more.

According to a report from Bloomberg , in order to successfully bring the Apple Car to market, Apple turned to a simpler and less ambitious design. In other words:

Let’s build the car first and talk about subverting the industry later.

Apple's compromise

Counting from 2014, Apple has been struggling for a full decade. The Vision Pro, which was launched a year later than the car, has now been mass-produced and sold.

Looking back, the reason why the Apple Car was so "ill-fated" was probably because it carried Apple's desire to obtain high profits in addition to the iPhone.

Previously, “Project Titan” probably revealed such an Apple Car:

Priced at more than $120,000, it looks like a big, sleek mouse, without a steering wheel and accelerator/brake pedals. The center console is equipped with an iPad, equipped with a C1 chip modified based on the A12 Bionic processor, and "revolutionary" sensors, and more importantly, can achieve L5 level autonomous driving.

▲What the previously rumored Apple Car looks like

Then in 2022, Apple, which had been working hard for 8 years, decided to retreat in order to advance. Its goal was to downgrade from L5 to L3 so that cars can drive autonomously on highways. Even so, this is an elusive goal.

Now, Apple has decided to return to reality, abandon the development of L3 level autonomous driving, and switch to the current mainstream L2+ level assisted driving, in line with Tesla's current level.

Apple’s ambitions for autonomous driving are no longer a secret.

In February 2015, a mysterious car was spotted driving on the streets of Northern California with multiple sensors mounted on its roof. Some people speculate that this is something like Apple’s “Google Street View”, while others say it is related to autonomous driving. Apple later stated that it was a "mapping project."

A few days after the mysterious car appeared, an unidentified Apple employee broke the news to Business Insider via email, suggesting that Apple was working on a project to "compete with Tesla" and that many Tesla employees would also switch jobs. Come.

The news that Apple is aggressively recruiting automotive technology experts and design experts can no longer be concealed. However, at this time, people still felt that Apple was developing a software platform based on CarPlay, and did not think elsewhere until "Project Titan" was exposed.

Technology must ultimately serve the goal, whether it should be autonomous driving or assisted driving. Disagreement within Apple has existed since then. In 2016, there was a change of executives and Project Titan came to a standstill.

Before the second wave of layoffs in 2019, rumors about Apple Car were all about making software rather than hardware. After the "Project Titan" team and more than 200 remaining employees left at the beginning of the year, Apple acquired Drive.ai, a startup designing a self-driving shuttle service, in June.

At the beginning of 2020, Apple had several rounds of talks with the electric vehicle company Canoo, ranging from investment to acquisition, but in the end nothing came of it. Canoo developed a scalable modular electric vehicle platform, mainly manufacturing electric pickup trucks for commercial use, and later merged with Henessy.

▲Canoo founder Ulrich Kranz, a former BMW executive, also joined Apple’s car-making team

The next year, John Giannandrea, director of artificial intelligence and machine learning, took over the "Titan Project." After Doug Field, an executive from Tesla, resigned in September 2021, Kevin Lynch, who was responsible for Apple Watch, joined.

In addition, Apple has also hired Porsche executive Manfred Harrer, one of the best engineers in the Volkswagen Group. Apple also recruited former BMW executive Ulrich Kranz, the founder of Canoo, who developed the i3 and i8 for BMW. There are also two engineers from Mercedes-Benz, both specializing in vehicle power systems.

However, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in March 2022 that Apple's car team has been "disbanded for some time" and will be reorganized in the next three to six months. The 2025 mass production target is probably not enough.

"Bounced tickets" will continue

Initially, Apple expected the release of its first car to be in 2019. Reports at the end of 2021 showed that Apple may officially announce the car-making project in 2022 and launch it in 2025. But in 2022, what was waiting was the news that it would be postponed again to 2026.

At that time, along with this bad news, there was also good news-the price of Apple Car was expected to be less than $100,000.

On the one hand, people who can afford to buy an Apple car will not particularly care about the price difference of about 20,000 yuan. Moreover, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of purchasing an electric car in 2022 will be $48,000, less than half of $100,000.

On the other hand, for a new car that cannot be released for a long time, price reduction does not mean "promotion", but more likely means that some "core" configurations will be reduced or cut off.

The price of US$100,000, in horizontal comparison, was about the same as Tesla's standard Model S and Mercedes-Benz EQS at the time. At the same time, there is considerable pressure to compete with top brands of electric vehicles and fuel vehicles.

Therefore, as soon as the "good" news and bad news came out, Apple's stock price fell by 2%. Throughout 2022, Apple's stock price fell 19%. Even so, it's doing better than most stocks in the Nasdaq Composite Index.

Now, in 2024, the starting price of Tesla Model S has dropped to $74,990. Even the Model S Plaid with three motors and 1,200 horsepower only costs $89,990, and the $100,000 Apple Car , getting more and more difficult. From this perspective, Apple's lowered expectations may also be related to the cost of bicycles.

While Apple is making compromises for autonomous driving, the release of Apple Car will also be postponed again to 2028. That is 14 years after the "Titan Project" was launched.

Apple believes that 2028 will be a critical moment that determines success or failure. If Apple Car cannot be launched as scheduled, the company's management will "seriously re-evaluate whether the project should continue." Apple really can’t afford it anymore.

▲Apple is spending more and more on research and development on the “next big thing”

Over the years, "Project Titan" has become one of Apple's most expensive projects, investing billions of dollars every year to pay employees, rely on Amazon Web Services to host self-driving system cloud components, and test vehicles, roads, etc. A range of R&D needs.

Apple has always revealed a very clear idea for building a car:

Firmly controlling the midstream chain, we develop our own battery package and system chips. Downstream can completely rely on Apple's own strong market capabilities and channels in various stores to carry out "experience plus sales."

The upstream part of the new energy vehicle industry chain mainly consists of raw materials, and Apple cannot do much in this part. In this link, lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, and rare earths are the main minerals, and lithium carbonate used in batteries is the key raw material. At the same time, for the sake of battery life, the requirements for lightweight vehicles are getting higher and higher, and the demand for magnesium and aluminum alloys is also increasing.

▲Apple’s original car chassis was built based on Hyundai’s E-GMP electric vehicle platform

In the middle of the industrial chain, the first is battery manufacturing. Batteries account for the largest material cost in new energy vehicles. Apple is obviously looking for more mature battery suppliers to cooperate and leave the battery cell technology to the suppliers. But in addition, Apple will be involved in Package technology and battery management system (BMS).

Package is the process of assembling lithium battery cells into groups. It can be a single battery or a series-parallel battery module. Apple uses single batteries.

Each process of Package is very complex, including customized development technology of battery management system, thermal management technology, current control and detection technology, module assembly design technology, etc.

BMS includes four links: upstream materials, BMS modules, BMS finished products, and downstream applications. Previously, BMS was provided by professional power battery companies as a whole, and traditional car manufacturers had relatively little involvement in this area. However, as the electrification process accelerates, Tesla has adopted BMS as its core technology, and other car companies have followed suit and developed BMS through mergers and acquisitions, strategic cooperation, and other methods. Apple should not want to "fall behind."

In fact, Apple's idea of ​​building a car is similar to that of building a mobile phone. It relies on chips and interactive design to create a high-quality experience, and leaves other things to OEMs.

Currently, Apple is meeting with potential partners in Europe to discuss their next steps.

America has no room for an Apple car

The development of Apple Car seems to have no sound at present. If Apple does not adopt an acquisition strategy to enter the car market, I doubt that this product will be put into mass production in the next few years.

In September 2023, well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Tianfeng Securities expressed a pessimistic view of Apple Car. Since entering 2023, artificial intelligence has been extremely popular, but Apple’s “Project Titan” has gradually faded out of people’s sight.

The last time we saw Apple-related information was in March 2023, when Apple improved its autonomous driving capabilities and expanded the scope of testing. The last time will be in 2022.

In fact, this is not the first time that Ming-Chi Kuo has poured cold water on Apple Car. He had previously revealed that the Apple Car team "has been disbanded for some time and will be reorganized in the next three to six months." As he said, long-time Ford engineer Desi Ujkashevic joined the Apple Car team. She has participated in the development of Ford Edge, Explorer, Fiesta and Focus, and has extensive experience in electric vehicle manufacturing.

But Ming-Chi Kuo also believes that even if Apple Car can be released in 2025, Apple Car will still face huge market risks.

Although electric vehicles are widely considered to be the dominant force in the future of the automotive industry, recent weakening market demand and changing market conditions have forced many auto companies to begin to rethink their strategic direction.

"Leading leader" Tesla suspended the construction of its Mexican factory, and General Motors and Honda followed closely and announced the termination of their entry-level electric vehicle cooperation plan. At the same time, General Motors also abandoned its original goal of producing 400,000 electric vehicles in North America by mid-2024 and cut billions of dollars in budget.

GM CEO Mary Barra previously said that GM "still has a plan" but that the plan will be flexibly adjusted based on actual conditions.

On the other hand, Ford also admitted that its Model e division, which focuses on electric vehicles and future mobility, suffered a loss of up to US$1.3 billion in the third quarter of 2023, and attributed this significant loss to continued investment in next-generation electric vehicles, as well as The complexity of market dynamics then delayed its $12 billion electric vehicle investment plan.

Even industry giants had to take a half-step back under such a cold wave.

At the end of 2023, about 4,000 U.S. car dealers jointly sent a letter to the U.S. government requesting to slow down the promotion of electric vehicles. The joint letter stated that electric vehicles will be an ideal choice for many people and their appeal will continue to grow. But the reality is that "regulations have prompted a large influx of electric vehicles into stores, but market demand cannot keep up, and pure electric vehicles have piled up in North American distribution stores."

"Forbes" magazine pointed out that the lack of subsidies for high-end models, increased consumer price sensitivity, higher maintenance costs and imperfect charging infrastructure than fuel vehicles are considered to be the main reasons for the slowdown in the growth of electric vehicles in the United States.

From the data point of view, the sales of electric vehicles in the United States in the fourth quarter reached 317,168 units, and the market share increased to 8.1%, setting a new sales record, but the growth rate has slowed down.

In addition, Reuters reported on the 24th that Tesla plans to start producing a new compact electric crossover code-named "Redwood" in mid-2025, also known as the legendary "$25,000 Tesla."

As a result, the space left for Apple will become smaller and smaller.

Anyone with wheels is interested and welcome to communicate. Email: [email protected]

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