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As reports of Apple preparing to sign a manufacturing deal for its first self-driving car continue to heat up, it’s looking even more likely that the company’s moonshot “Project Titan” will in fact see its vehicles assembled in the United States.
News first surfaced a couple of weeks ago that Apple and Hyundai were in discussions about a manufacturing partnership, although the Korean automaker quickly back-pedalled on its initial statements that had named Apple as the company it was negotiating with, stating instead that it was merely talking to “a variety of global automakers,” and that all the talks were at very early stages.
However, a subsequent report last week from another Korean industry source suggested that the talks may have been farther along than we thought, with the news that the two companies could sign a deal as soon as this coming March, with production planned for 2024.
This second report, from Korea IT News, was another one that seemingly had to be walked back, as it originally added details that were later removed, including production volumes of 100,000–400,000 vehicles per year, and pegging a possible location in the U.S. — either the Georgia-based plant of Hyundai’s subsidiary Kia Motors or an entirely new factory that the two companies would build jointly.
The Kia Connection
It seems that Hyundai has been resisting the idea of a partnership with Apple fearing diluting its own brand, which it wants to continue to focus much more strongly on. Hyundai’s leadership seems to be afraid that the dominance of Apple could force it into basically becoming an “OEM factory” for Apple cars, affecting its ability and reputation in producing cars in its own right.
However, Hyundai appears to be less concerned about the brand of its subsidiary, Kia Motors, and in fact, according to one industry insider, Hyundai feels that an Apple partnership could strengthen Kia’s brand rather than diminishing it.
To that end, Hyundai has reportedly tagged Kia Motors for the honour of an Apple partnership, particularly since Kia recently announced that it plans to more heavily promote “mobility solutions and purpose-based vehicles(PBVs),” which Hyundai seems to feel is a good fit for the Apple Car.
However, Hyundai still insists that the talks are “at an early stage,” and at this point, Kia is still going over the details.
More significantly, however, eDaily adds that if Kia agrees to move forward, the Apple Car will be produced at its plant in West Point, Georgia.
The discussions between Hyundai and Kia have only just concluded, so it appears that the ball is now in Kia’s court, although Hyundai in general is reportedly still proceeding very cautiously with the deal as a whole.
Notably, this latest report doesn’t add anything about the timeline for when the Apple Car may go into production, which has been one of the hardest things to pin down in recent weeks.
Last month, Reuters shared a claim that production could start as early as 2024, which aligned wth the timeline offered up by Korea IT News, but this conflicts with what’s been heard by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, and also backed up by reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, both of whom suggest that the Apple Car is nowhere near production-ready, and estimate a timeframe of 2025–2028.
That said, the two predictions aren’t mutually exclusive as there’s room for a bit of overlap. If Apple and Kia could start production in late 2024, as predicted, that would still likely put the initial Apple Car on track for a 2025 release at the earliest, but at this point, even 2024 is far enough away that a lot can change between now and then.