In February of this year, The Wall Street Journal began teasing exciting new developments at Apple. The WSJ’s sources (who remain unnamed) stated that Apple was laying the groundwork for the design and production of their very own electric car. And a few weeks ago, the WSJ offered more details: they now say the tech giant will introduce their first electric car in 2019—just a little over three years from now.
The WSJ cited only “people familiar with the matter,” and though the project, code named Titan, is still shrouded in mystery, development is very much underway. The WSJ reports that Titan is designated within Apple as a “committed project,” and 2019 is their target ship date for the vehicles (not simply an introduction date). The WSJ also reports that Titan leaders will soon triple the already 600-person team in an effort to meet their ambitious timeline.
The WSJ reported in February that “Apple’s industrial design team is staffed with several people who have experience at European auto makers. Last year, Apple hired Marc Newson, a famous industrial designer and close friend of the company’s design guru, Jony Ive. In the past, Mr. Newson created a concept car for Ford Motor Co.”
What Will Apple’s Electric Car Look Like?
Though Apple is part of the autonomous car race, sources familiar with Apple’s plans say the 2019 electric car won’t be a driverless vehicle. When The WSJ began reporting about the Titan project back in February, their “people familiar with the matter” said that Apple was “working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan,” (to which an Apple spokesperson declined to comment). No further design details have been released, so for now we’ll just have to imagine how cool a car from the company with one of the best design teams out there might be (even if it’s a minivan).
Apple and Tesla
Engineering and manufacturing electric cars will put Apple in direct competition with Tesla Motors Inc., which will be stiff competition for sure. While no one could argue building cars is expensive—especially for new companies—the WSJ reports that electric cars add another set of (costly) issues. Speaking about Tesla, The WSJ says the company “has seen losses widen amid rising expenses to build an electric sport-utility vehicle. It expects to spend $1.5 billion on capital expenditures and R&D this year.”
But though Apple will have stiff competition, the WSJ says, “Apple’s commitment is a sign that the company sees an opportunity to become a player in the automotive industry by applying expertise that it has honed in developing iPhones—in areas such as batteries, sensors and hardware-software integration—to the next generation of cars.”
Can Apple Pull it Off?
It hasn’t escaped our notice that 2019 isn’t that far away, and we’re wondering if a company without a history in the auto design or auto manufacturing world can create a car with such new tech from the ground up.
The WSJ may have their doubts, too. They reported in February, “Manufacturing a car is enormously expensive. A single plant usually costs well over $1 billion and requires a massive supply chain to produce the more than 10,000 components in a car.” But while other companies might struggle (even Tesla’s Elon Musk admitted it’s “really hard” to make a car), Apple is in a rather rare position, money-wise at least. According to the WSJ, Apple reported holding $178 billion in cash as of December 27, 2014. The WSJ also noted that, even if Apple overcomes design and engineering hurdles, and even if manufacturing goes smoothly, “a vehicle would still need to undergo a litany of tests before it could clear regulatory hurdles.”
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Apple’s history, it’s not to underestimate them.
Do you think Apple can pull off an electric car in just over three years? What do you think it will look like? Tell us in the comments!