Apple Car - finally more than a rumor

After a couple years of rumors and smoke, we finally have some fire.

Apple rumored to invest $3.6B in Kia to produce 100,000 ‘Apple Cars’ per year | AppleInsider

Apple has laid down a big chunk of change to get Hyundai-Kia to help them produce an Apple Car. Very little info on the what and when of the products, but we do have a where. Supposedly it would be produced in the US state of Georgia at the Kia plant there, which is a good thing I suppose.

Memelords have made jokes that the car will cost $1M and require the purchase of wheels, seats and a proprietary charging cord separately from a local Apple Store. Also that it will be unserviceable except at Apple branded lifestyle stores. Feel free to make your jokes, but let’s keep the fanboyism and associated fanboy bashing to a minimum here.

I’m curious if Apple plans to make this a Tesla competitor i.e. a high-end, sports car brand targeting the well heeled. Or if they are looking to make something more like a commodity product like the electric Toyota Camry/Honda Civic. Certainly they’d love the car to be almost as ubiquitous as the phones are.

I also wonder if they are going to jump straight to a driverless car concept, skipping the drivers entirely. Tesla has long dreamt of a world in which there’s a fleet of auto-piloted Teslas roaming the streets putting Uber out of business and pocketing those juicy ride fares without sharing them with pesky drivers. Maybe that’s where Apple starts instead of releasing a new fashion statement for everyone’s driveway.

Apple has certainly had success in design and interface, so I’d be interested in what they come up with. Partnering with a real automotive company is a good choice, I’m not a Kia owner, but they are certainly a competent manufacturer.

Chez Cheesesteak is an Apple household, and I’m not always happy with their choices, non-standard connectivity, locked down app store, etc., but their products are generally well made, so I’d expect that in this venue as well.

Design yes, I’m less bullish on their UI/UX chops. Certainly the iPhone doesn’t have any adoption challenges here, but their software has never really been a bastion of elegant and efficient navigation and organization. If Apple continues with it’s extreme aversion to buttons and physical controls, an Apple car without any manual cabin controls kinda sounds like hell on earth. Do I need to ask Siri to adjust the side view mirrors and pop the trunk?

Apparently, you don’t remember the hell on earth that was smartphone UIs before the iPhone, which is why every smartphone maker (except maybe Microsoft) copied the iPhone UI. The Visual Voicemail feature alone was worth the price.

The article I read said that (at least to begin with) the car would be fully autonomous and designed for “last mile” usage (i.e - deliveries).

Whatever they bring to the table in user interface design is in the use of computers. Operating a car is a very different thing. Tesla, for example, seems (keeping in mind I’ve never driven one) to emphasize use of a touchscreen for controlling the car, which seems wrong when you need to keep your eyes on the road.

And it hasn’t changed materially since. And yes, Visual Voicemail is great but that’s not really UI, it’s an entirely new technology where Apple typically does well. Most of the legacy Apple iOS apps, Mail, Music, Contacts, iTunes, etc., are the worst of their kind when it comes to UX. They generally work well, but they aren’t elegant and they aren’t efficient.

Can you imagine the “Settings” app in a Apple Car?

Nah, use the steering wheel and horn button. No different than the wildly successful MacBook Wheel:

CNBC says the plan is to produce the car at an existing Kia plant in West Point, Georgia and that Apple isn’t going for a Kia running Apple technology but an “Apple car” with Apple driving most of the hardware and software decisions. And there’s the self-driving aspect.

The CNBC article quotes a Morgan Stanley analyst who says the “global auto and mobility market” is worth $10 trillion annually, versus $500 billion for the smartphone business. So if Apple can capture two percent of the mobility market, it will have a business as large as its iPhone business.

But they’re pursuing several new things all at once; getting into the auto business (which they’re new to), the electric car business (which pretty much everyone is new to) and the self-driving car business (ditto). I’m a little skeptical.

I’ve read that they will be leveraging the Hyundai E-GMP platform for the electric drivetrain.

Hyundai Unveils EV Platform, 23 Electric Vehicles Coming by 2025 (

If true, this implies that Apple doesn’t need to sort out the whole electrification thing on their own. I think this makes a lot of sense, and if Apple can bring some of their battery know-how to the mix to make it even better, that’s a bonus. The partnership in general means they don’t need to sort out the whole car manufacturing thing, which we know has been a major Achilles for Tesla thus far…admittedly, it’s also probably a big advantage since they broke some old school conventions for the better.

If Apple ends up focusing on the overall form factor and the various haptics/ergonomics while leaving the wrench turning to Hyundai, it could work well.

Not for nothing, but the Hyundai Ioniq concept looks like a pretty decent imitation of what an “Apple Car” might look like.

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5: What We Know So Far (

Though I suspect Hyundai isn’t going to give away that design and brand for Apple’s sake.

They’ve done computers, audio players and cell phones. They’ve made revolutionary changes to all three markets based at least in part on how a person interacts with the device. I don’t necessarily believe there’s similar revolutionary changes to the automotive market, other than self driving, but who believed there were revolutionary changes ready to happen for cell phones until the iPhone came out?

I think most people are pulling for them, but their previous successes do not serve as a reliable indicator of what they can do here. Cars are a whole other world compared to personal electronics, which is where every other innovation they’ve had is.

What, as if Android VV has changed materially since? It’s virtually the same as iOS VV. It is bizarre that you’re handwaving it away with “that’s not really a UI.” It is a tech with an accompanying UI on top that made for such a great UX that everyone else copied it.

No, I can’t. But if the history of consumer UI/UX in the last 15 years is any indication, no one else can until Apple shows everyone. Will that happen? I have no idea. But saying stuff like iOS “has never really been a bastion of elegant and efficient navigation and organization” is nonsense.

That’s a great Ed Colligan impression.

I’m not going to argue with you, you’ve clearly dug your heels in on this, but suffice to say that iOS’s UX is quite subjective. I say this as a massive Apple advocate and one who loathes Android.

If me decimal count is right, that’s $36,000 per car. Why not just buy then from Kia dealers and re-badge them?

Because they don’t exist yet.

It was an investment, not a purchase order. Likely it’s not the last injection of cash that will be provided before 100,000 cars hit the streets.

Apple’s usual strategy is to combine both. You have a manufacturer that is unable or unwilling to invest in their own facilities. Apple comes along and says they’ll purchase X units and pay them $Y upfront to help pay for the equipment. Sometimes it doesn’t work out (like their attempt to manufacture sapphire glass for smartphones), but usually it works out well for both parties.

Maybe, but the math doesn’t really work.

GM will spend $2.2 billion to build electric and autonomous vehicles at Detroit plant - The Verge

GM is building an EV battery factory with LG Chem in Lordstown, Ohio - The Verge

It costs billions to refit a plant to produce a new type of car. GM invested about $4.5B to produce batteries and EVs in 2 plants. That $3.6B wouldn’t leave much left over to actually pay Kia for the resulting cars once the factory is up and running. I’m sure Apple is getting something for it’s money, but I doubt this is just an advance purchase of a bunch of cars with an option to buy more later.