Apple Developing Electric Car (Report)

Apple CEO Tim Cook - H 2014
AP Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook - H 2014

Code-named Titan, the secret project would expand Apple's foothold in connected cars and compete directly with Telsa Motors.

Following intense speculation and casual evidence that Apple Inc. is developing an automobile, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant is working on an Apple-branded electric car.

Code-named Titan, the secret project involves hundreds of Apple employees working at a site near Apple's corporate campus. Sources told the Journal that the initial design of the vehicle resembles a minivan.

If and when an Apple car reaches production, it would add to the growing competition that Tesla Motors, which holds the aesthetic and technical high ground in the nascent electric-car field, faces in the next few years.

In January, General Motors announced it would introduce the Bolt, a mass-produced electric car with a 200-mile range priced at $30,000, in 2017 — around the time Tesla is expected to field its Model 3, its first car aimed at a mainstream audience.

Apple and Tesla have been poaching each other's employees lately — Tesla CEO Elon Musk groused in a Bloomberg report that Apple was paying $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases to prospective Tesla defectors, "but so far they've recruited very few people."

Tesla stock took a beating yesterday after it reported disappointing quarterly financial results, and Musk remarked that Tesla has "spent staggering amounts of money" on the development of the Model 3 and Model X, a much delayed crossover SUV due later this year.

Whether or not Apple will build a car remains to be seen. There is speculation that the Titan project could just as plausibly be about improving Apple's maligned mapping software or solidifying Apple's foothold in the connected cars of other manufacturers. Its CarPlay system, which allows control of an iPhone or iPad directly through a car's infotainment system, is just beginning to roll out in vehicles made by Mercedes, Volvo, Jaguar and BMW.

"I'm sure Apple wants to solidify a place in the dashboard, but I think it has less to do with physical products and more to do with software," Damon Lavrinc, Silicon Valley editor of the Jalopnik automotive website, told The Hollywood Reporter. "Apple has so much cash to throw around it's working on dozens of different things that may never see the light of day. But it knows the car is another platform — another ecosystem — that it can have a hand in shaping. How that will actually manifest itself is wide open to speculation."