Could this finally be the partnership that launches Apple’s autonomous EV effort?

Almost a decade since it first started looking into entering the auto industry, tech giant Apple is now reportedly ready to dive deep into the market, this time with the help of Korean automaker Hyundai.

The two companies are reportedly close to signing a partnership deal that could finally bring Apple’s autonomous EV car dreams to life. Nothing is set in stone, but a report from Korean news outlet Korea IT News indicated that a deal is expected to be signed in March, setting the stage for a partnership that could help Apple start production of its autonomous electric vehicle sometime in 2024 in the U.S.

Neither Apple nor Hyundai confirmed that the deal is official, though the latter did release a statement through Reuters — it walked back on that statement later on — that the two companies are “in discussions but they are at an early stage and nothing has been decided.”

Basically, Hyundai said that the two sides are talking, only to back away from that statement and instead say that it was “getting requests for cooperation on joint development of autonomous electric vehicles from various companies.” Curiously, Apple wasn’t mentioned in the updated statement, though reading the tea leaves right could still lead you in the direction of the tech giant.

Apple’s Been Toying With The Auto Industry For a While

Apple's iCar EV Gains Momentum And Hyundai Could Have Something To Do With It Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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It depends on your perspective of it. It’s not surprising in the sense that Apple’s grand plans of entering the auto industry — it even has a cool “Project Titan” name for it — are well-documented. Those plans have been shelved more times than we can count, but it never came to a point where Apple balked at the entire project completely. Steady progress has been made over the years, and it seems that the tech giant has progressed far enough with Project Titan that building a vehicle for the market is now within reach. There are still plenty of roadblocks to get through, including the process of actually building a vehicle. For that, Apple needed an established automaker with years upon years of proven success to partner with. Enter Hyundai.

Hyundai makes an ideal partner for Apple for a variety of reasons. First, the two companies already have a history of working together, specifically when it comes to integrating Apple’s in-car software for connectivity, CarPlay, into Hyundai’s lineup of models. That’s a solid foundation for both companies. The second thing is quality, something that Hyundai has become known for in recent years. If Apple’s going to outsource car production of its autonomous electric vehicle, it needs to have a partner with a proven track record of building high-quality models. That’s Hyundai.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
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The third is money. From afar, an Apple-Hyundai collaboration comes a surprise when you think about the closer proximity Apple has with American automakers like Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

But this is one of those cases when proximity doesn’t really matter when money’s involved. Labor costs tied to any of the U.S. brands are typically higher compared to Hyundai, and Apple doesn’t lose out on production capacity since Hyundai can offer as much — if more — resources on that front as any of the U.S. brands. It doesn’t help, too, that U.S. automakers have strong unions that could potentially muddy whatever agreements are made between the companies involved.

In Hyundai, Apple has a partner that provides a lot of the elements it needs to help launch Project Titan without the titanic monetary costs.

A Hyundai-Apple partnership has the makings to be a successful marriage, provided that someone says “yes” to the other’s proposal.

What does Hyundai gain from a partnership with Apple?

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
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I’d like to say credibility but that’s not necessarily true. Hyundai’s already one of the biggest automakers in the world; it’s a proven brand with a proven track record of rolling out high-quality vehicles, whether it’s a small compact car or a massive seven-seater SUV. Heck, Hyundai has even launched its own performance arm, N, establishing itself as a challenger in the high-performance car market.

Still, even with all the success it has had, collaborating with Apple and helping the tech giant launch its autonomous electric vehicle is a big step in becoming an even bigger company.

Remember, Hyundai has its own goals for the future, one of which is to splay eight to ten percent of the world’s electric vehicles by 2025. More than 12 battery-powered electric cars, all of which will be built on the company’s modular E-GMP platform, are set to arrive in the next few years. A partnership with Apple swings both ways. Hyundai can provide its EV platform to Apple and the latter can offer software and technology that can be used for future EV models.

This partnership is a big deal for both sides. Here’s to hoping that it becomes official sooner than later.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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