A few weeks ago I had the privilege to drive a Tesla Model S P85D. The whole time driving it I was thinking that if someone had told me this was really the iCar from Apple, I probably would’ve believed them. The Tesla feels so much like an Apple product in car form, and that’s because Tesla has pilfered quite a few employees from Apple over the last few years. But here we are, just a couple weeks later and all of these rumors have surfaced about Apple’s “Project Titan.” Supposedly it is a sort of “iCar”, aimed to actually compete against Tesla.
This of course has gotten me thinking about the idea of Apple making a car, and how they might go about doing it properly. The following is my take on Apple making a car, the struggles they will face, and some possible ways they could make a successful product.
1) The market for cars is VERY different from the market for neat little gadgets
A car is the second largest purchase most people make, and is far more complex than a laptop or a tablet. The stakes are also much higher when it comes to safety in the even of a product failure. Customers will be trusting the iCar with their lives at 70mph, and Apple has never made such a dynamic machine before, ever.
I often joke that Apple’s brand is strong enough that they could sell a turd with a little Apple logo affixed to it. People would be lining up for weeks to get their hands on the new “iTurd.” While the “must-have” brand hysteria works at a price point of a few hundred dollars, it will not work for a car costing tens of thousands of dollars. For a car, they will need to show real demonstrated quality.
2) Apple’s automotive inexperience is their biggest advantage as well as their biggest weakness
The Auto Industry is very much an oligarchy. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, think of it as like a monopoly, but with a few industry leaders instead of just one.
The auto industry as a whole is very much set in its ways right now. There is an established order to the marketplace and the way things are done. It is an industry ripe for disruption, and that is what Apple does!
If Apple is going to make their own car, they will not be taking the same approach as existing automakers because they would never be able to compete. If Apple does build an iCar, then it will be something totally new that is executed in a new way.
3) What will it be?
At this point we really know nothing, only that Apple has been testing some minivans. There is a lot of speculation out there, but just be sure to keep yourself grounded when listening to all of the hype.
The biggest thing to remember is that Apple hasn’t really ever invented anything that is totally new. They’ve always taken an existing concept, made it much easier to use, added a few clever features, and made it sexier, and then put their own little marketing spin on it. Then, BOOM, the sales come rushing in. I would expect something similar from Apple’s car.
Here are some possibilities that I think might work for them:
-A driverless electric van
This is one of the more far-out ideas, but it would be a huge game changer and likely reinvent personal transport if they could pull it off. Nutshell, the computers do the driving, and you just chill inside it. I see this being extremely difficult to actually accomplish anytime soon, though, because it will be a nightmare to get through safety regulations.
-A modular electric car with total customization
If you look at the chassis of a Tesla Model S, you will notice that it is basically an electric-powered skateboard. On top of the chassis, you can put any shape or configuration for a car. In theory, this means you could easily swap out body styles, or even change the type of car you have. Imagine being able to change your car from a practical sedan during the week to a fun convertible on the weekends!
The basic chassis of an electric car allows that to be possible.
4) Apple would be smart to partner with an existing automaker
Tesla’s first car, the Tesla Roadster, used the chassis from a Lotus Elise. They proved they could make a solid car, and then went to build their own car from scratch. I think Apple really needs to follow suit, especially since their car will likely be a more mass-market item than the $135,000 Tesla Roadster was.
Partnering with an established car company also gets rid of the buyer anxiety about Apple venturing into new territory. Apple is a technology company, so they should just do that part of the car, and have someone such as Toyota make the actual car part of the vehicle.
Ask yourself this, what will sell better?
“The All-New iCar, a first for Apple”
“The New Apple iCar, Powered By Toyota”
I really think they need a trusted, well-established carmaker name attached to the “iCar” for the first generation to succeed.
So that is my own take on the rumored Apple automobile. There is a lot of speculation, including some I just added, so please be smart if you’re looking to invest in the company based on what you’re reading. A successful Apple “iCar” could take the company to new heights and could revolutionize personal transportation. But at the same time, they are getting into a market that is totally different from where they’re coming from, and it failure could mean disaster.
We’ll be excited to see what comes of the rumors!