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A deal between Apple and Hyundai to produce the Apple Car could be closer than originally thought, as new details emerge indicating that the two are working toward finalizing the partnership as soon as March, with plans to actually begin producing the first Apple Car by 2024.
We first heard reports last week that Apple and Hyundai were in talks about a partnership to produce Apple’s first electric vehicle, but at the time the talks were described as “at an early stage,” and in fact Hyundai also originally added that it believed Apple was having these discussions with “a variety of global automakers” as well, making the whole thing seem very preliminary.
This was reinforced when Hyundai, likely having gotten its wrist slapped by Apple, walked back its earlier statements, revising its first statement 30 minutes later to remove references to other automakers, and then pulling Apple’s name out of the mix entirely in favour of an oblique reference to “various companies.”
This led many to conclude that Apple was merely at the stage of testing the waters, however according to a report from Korea IT News cited by Reuters, the negotiations between Apple and the Korean carmaker may actually be at a much more advanced stage, and in fact, the two companies “plan to sign a partnership deal on autonomous electric cars by March” with the goal of beginning actual production as soon as 2024.
Made in the U.S.
In what might be another repeat of companies speaking out of turn, Korea IT News also originally supplied details on things like production locations and capacity, noting that the proposal would see the Apple Car built in the U.S., either at Hyundai’s existing Kia Motors facilities in Georgia or at an entirely new factory that the Apple and Hyundai would invest in jointly.
According to the initial report, the first run of approximately 100,000 vehicles would begin in 2024 before ramping up to 400,000 vehicles annually. Initial test models of the Apple Car could also be produced as soon as 2022, which isn’t all that far off from another report we heard in December that pegged a late 2021 unveiling.
The report was later updated to remove these details, including the production location, capacity, and even the timeframe for closing the deal and launching the first pilot vehicles.
The timeline offered up by these latest Korean reports stand in stark contrast to what we’ve been hearing from other sources, including Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and veteran Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, both of which have been pointing to a release closer in the 2025–2028 timeframe.
In fact, Kuo originally predicted a 2023–2025 window, so it’s even more significant that he recently chose to revise that timeline. Meanwhile, Gurman has spoken with Apple engineers who have insisted that the car is “nowhere near production stage,” particularly with the global health pandemic having slowed things down.
Meanwhile, Reuters already reported a 2024 timeline last month, which this latest report seems to align with, and of course a lot can happen in the next three years. It’s also worth noting that Apple’s decision to shift the project fully into its AI division and away from legendary hardware chief Bob Mansfield seems to suggest that all the hardware engineering problems have been solved, and now it’s just down to building the ultimate self-driving system to power the brains of the vehicle.
So it’s entirely possible that the reports we’ve heard are simply on the conservative side, with 2028 being the worst-case scenario. If Apple and Hyundai truly began production in late 2024, that would point to a limited release of the Apple Car in 2025, which is still within the window being predicted by Gurman and Kuo.