According to a pair of fresh reports, Nissan is no longer discussing a potential manufacturing tie-up with Apple regarding Project Titan, the iPhone maker’s autonomous car project.
The reason for this seems to be pure vanity.
There’s nothing wrong with production outsourcing, but Nissan (along with some other carmakers, apparently) just cannot seem to shake off the notion that being contracted to produce cars for Apple would somehow be bad for their business and brand image. The Apple Car could feature its own breakthrough battery technology and arrive as early as 2024.
Nissan won’t be pushed around
A new report by the Financial Times newspaper alleges Apple recently approached Nissan to work on its autonomous car project. However, the talks fell apart over branding issues because Nissan reportedly wouldn’t become an assembler for the Apple Car.
A Nissan spokesperson has confirmed to Reuters that the discussions fell apart. “We are not in talks with Apple,” a Nissan spokeswoman said. “However, Nissan is always open to exploring collaborations and partnerships to accelerate industry transformation.”
Analysts have said Nissan could be a good fit for Apple due to its available production capacity in the US and because it was a pioneer of electric vehicles with the launch of the Leaf in 2010.
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Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer, told the Financial Times the following:
We have our own customer satisfaction, which comes by car. No way we are going to change the way we make cars. The way we design, the way we develop and the way we manufacture is going to be as an automotive manufacturer, as Nissan.
But then he added this:
We have to check who has got the best competency to catch what the customer is thinking. For this, we can do the partnership, but that is to adapt their services to our product, not vice versa.
At least Nissan was wise enough not to mention Apple by name.
Carmakers fear Apple’s brand power
That cannot be said for Hyundai/Kia, whose executives a month ago publicly bragged about discussing a $3.6 billion Apple Car deal with the Cupertino technology giant. But after that story broke, lifting Kia shares more than sixteen percent, executives soon after back-tracked and issued a non-statement basically saying they’re open to collaboration with any company.
But it was already too late — the talks are now paused and neither Hyundai nor Kia appear to be considered as potential Apple Car partners anymore. Other automobile makers that Apple has approached regarding using their electric vehicle platforms as the basis for its own car have reportedly been reluctant to become relegated to Apple’s contract manufacturer.
The Apple Car has been predicted to lack a steering wheel, with some of the investors having a hard time imagining a design that involves human intervention in the driving process. CNBC has learned that the Apple Car may be a fully autonomous vehicle. According to that report, Apple could launch self-driving robotaxi operations with the Apple Car in order to earn higher per-unit revenues before deciding to sell the vehicle to consumers.
Nissan is a long shot
Nissan’s name has been tossed around quite a bit lately.
Jut recently, Bloomberg said that Nissan leadership held talks with Apple regarding an Apple Car, calling any such partnership a long shot given Nissan’s current strategy.
Nissan already has a common EV platform developed with French partner Renault SA, which will be used for its Ariya compact SUV debuting later this year. When asked whether the Japanese company would be willing to build cars for Apple, CEO Makoto Uchida said during an earnings news conference that Nissan ‘has the DNA to do things others won’t do.’
The Bloomberg article outlines more than half a dozen potential candidates that could help Apple build its rumored autonomously driven electric vehicle, including Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn and the European automaker Stellantis.