According to a report there are currently several hundred Apple employees are working on a top-secret electric car project.
Anonymous sources have told The Wall Street Journal that the car project was approved a year ago, with Steve Zadesky, vice president for product design, put in charge. Prior to helping to the lead the iPod and iPhone teams, Zadesky was an engineer at Ford.
In September 2014, Apple hired Johann Jungwirth, the head of the research and development department at Mercedes-Benz North America. Also on the company’s books is Marc Newson, the industrial designer who helped pen the Ford 021C concept car (below) in 1999.
Employees working on the project, dubbed Titan, are based at a location around eight kilometres away from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
There the team is working on a car that currently resembles an MPV. The team is also believed to be researching fields of robotics, metals and materials related to car manufacture.
As Tesla has discovered, engineering, testing and producing a car is a torturous endeavour that requires not only plenty of engineering and design nous, but also large piles of cash, and an excellent command of all things related to logistics and the supply chain.
Apple currently sits on a US$176 billion ($227 billion) cash pile, and its most profitable products are built under contract by specialist firms in China.
The consumer technology giant has, according to The Wall Street Journal, met with Magna Steyr, an automotive engineering firm that also handles manufacturing on a contract basis. Cars built by Magna Steyr include the Peugeot RCZ, Mini Countryman and Paceman, and Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Even if everything proceeds smoothly, any production vehicle from Apple is likely to be still several years away from sale. If Apple decides to pull the pin on Titan at some point in the future, the project may still yield valuable battery technology for the company or spawn some other product line.
Word about a potential Apple car project began to leak out last week when Business Insider reported that around 50 automotive engineers were to lured to Apple from Tesla. The website also claimed that it had received an email from an Apple employee stating that the company’s latest project would “change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money”.
A report in Reuters states that people involved in Apple’s car project have begun putting out feelers to automotive suppliers about technology related to self-driving vehicles.