Apple has reportedly been touring South Korea looking for parts suppliers for its first car.
Korea IT News reports the American tech giant is looking to select suppliers by the end of this year and subsequently enter full-scale development.
It’s reportedly zeroing in on South Korean companies in particular as it looks to establish its supply chain.
According to the report, Apple personnel visited South Korea in December, following an earlier visit where they met with LG Electronics and SK Group to discuss the supply of batteries.
Apple is understood to be looking to South Korea for battery suppliers given the fractious US-China relationship, which appears to have scuttled earlier plans to tap Chinese battery company CATL.
The company is reportedly looking for several South Korean electronics manufacturers, in particular those with experience in mass production.
The Korean outlet reports Apple has even proposed an equity investment in one of these manufacturers, which it wants to double its production capacity.
We know virtually nothing about what final shape the Apple car will take, other than it’s expected to be an electric vehicle with some level of autonomous driving capability and a surfeit of Apple tech.
The company continues to be extremely secretive, refusing to even acknowledge it’s developing a car.
Apple is also reportedly not discussing specifications with these parts manufacturers, perhaps to avoid leaks.
“The business related to Apple Car is being done under the surface,” an official from the parts industry told Korea IT News.
“If the information is leaked [by] a company, then the company may be removed from the supplier candidate. It is being handled very carefully.
“There are many parts companies that do not even consider becoming partners because the conditions that Apple car business demands are so harsh. And security is very strict, so sharing information is not easy.”
Some parts manufacturers have reportedly set up taskforces to attract Apple’s business.
An earlier report suggested the Apple Car will be introduced as early as 2025.
The company is now heading down the path of full-self-driving, unnamed sources told Bloomberg late last year – clearly an ambitious target given all the setbacks ‘Project Titan’ has faced.
Most recently, the project lost its head of development Doug Field to Ford. He’s been replaced by Apple’s vice-president of technology Kevin Lynch, the fifth executive to take charge of the project in roughly seven years.
For the past several years, Project Titan has reportedly explored two simultaneous paths: creating a model with limited self-driving capabilities, or a version with full self-driving ability that doesn’t require human intervention.
The ideal Apple electric car is reportedly one without steering wheels and pedals, while another internally-discussed option reportedly has an interior similar to the Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle.
The Canoo people mover-esque vehicle is expected to launch in late 2022, and has a U-shaped ‘lounge’ back seat where rear passengers are able to face each other.
Although it would ideally not come with a steering wheel, Apple has reportedly discussed equipping the car with an emergency takeover mode.
It has also reportedly internally debated several different business models for its EV, including creating a robotaxi fleet that’d compete against the likes of Uber, MOIA and Waymo.
Recent reports have indicated Apple has since had face-to-face talks with Toyota for it to be involved in some capacity, either as a supplier or as a manufacturer, and has also sent an envoy to Japan to meet with battery suppliers like Panasonic.
While Apple has shifted focus to Korea, one Korean company appears to have taken its hat out of the ring.
Hyundai said in 2021 it wouldn’t build Apple’s car as it reportedly had concerns about being a mere contract manufacturer for Apple rather than a strategic partner.
Apple had been seeking a US production hub and had met with Hyundai to discuss building its car at the Kia plant in West Point, Georgia.
Instead, LG’s joint venture with Magna International, LG Magna e-Powertrain, was reportedly firming last year as the chosen manufacturer for the Apple car.
Magna has previously confirmed it would build vehicles at a plant in North America if it were contracted to do so, while LG and SK Group’s battery arm, SK Innovation, are already operating or have plans to open battery-manufacturing facilities in the US.
Various affiliates of LG Group such as LG Chem are already in Apple’s supply chain which the source says provides reassurance to Apple there won’t be any supply chain issues.
Magna also already builds the electric Jaguar I-Pace.