Autos

Nissan and Hyundai no partners for Apple electric cars – but Tesla experts as consultants?

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but the rumors that a few years ago about Apple’s own electric car are persistent – and current reports from the industry clearly indicate that at least intensive negotiations are taking place. Most recently, Hyundai from South Korea and Nissan from Japan were traded as possible hardware partners, but both attempts are said to have failed. But at least Apple was able to hire a knowledgeable advisor for its electric car plans: production expert Sandy Munro, who over time has become known as a Tesla connoisseur and was recently even able to interview CEO Elon Musk.

Auto makers fear Apple brand

In response to a request from the news agency Reuters, a spokeswoman for Nissan said earlier this week that it was generally open to partnerships, but was not in discussions with Apple. The Financial Times had previously reported that there had been brief discussions about a collaboration between the two companies, but that they failed because of different ideas. The problem was that Nissan did not want to become a mere contract manufacturer for an electric car under the Apple brand.

Even before this statement was withdrawn by the South Koreans, it was even official that Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia had negotiated with Apple, according to Reuters, for the first time in 2018. After the confirmation in early January, the Kia share in particular rose strongly. But last week, like Nissan later, Hyundai explicitly stated that it would not hold talks with Apple about autonomous cars, and profits on the stock market dwindled again. Hyundai-Kia is also said to have had concerns about weakening its own brand with an electric car with Apple.

According to a report in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, this is a fundamental problem for Apple: Anyone who collaborates with the smartphone inventor is automatically pushed into the second row, and that is in clear contradiction to the self-image of established car manufacturers. So the only option is a partner like Magna who, for example, produces entire cars for Jaguar, but does not appear externally under its own brand. Alternatively, the German auto expert Stefan Bratzel from the Center of Automotive Management called “a weak manufacturer that is happy to receive orders”, for example from China.

Tesla connoisseur Munro doesn’t want to say anything

The expected entry of Apple into the huge auto market will not be a sweep, even if observers believe that the IT company Tesla could be the most dangerous when it comes to software and design. In addition, it seems to have at least secured the support of Sandy Munro. The former Ford manager and current consultant began with the first Model 3 to deal with Tesla. At first he was appalled by the poor body quality. But the deeper he got into the technology of the electric car, the more positive he had to report.

Over time, Munro’s regular Tesla dismantling and expert comments earned him the respect of CEO Musk, whom he was recently allowed to visit and interview at SpaceX. On that occasion, Musk agreed with Munro’s ongoing criticism of the appearance of some of his electric cars, stating that the best way to buy a Tesla is right after production has started or when it is already running smoothly.

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Nevertheless, Munro praised Tesla so often that some suspected he was being paid for it. He rejected that far – and a recent interview with himself can be seen as confirmation that he is now working for the competition instead. “Does Apple stand a chance?” Asked the moderator of the YouTube channel Meet Kevin, recognizable in anticipation of a detailed answer. But it was very brief: “I can’t talk about it,” Munro said after a moment’s thought. Then he laughed and repeated that statement and asked for the next question.

Because the consultant does not mince his words, this is a clear indication that he has received an order from Apple and, as is customary in such cases, must keep quiet about it. Why Tesla has not yet secured the services of the experienced production expert itself is unknown. But Munro is now at least involved in setting up an electric car that could be interesting for Tesla and Apple fans.

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