Steve Jobs Met With 'V-Vehicle' Creator in 2010 to Discuss Interest in a Cheaper, Lightweight Car

Although rumors surrounding Apple's electric car project began intensifying after the vehicle's development sped up last September, a new report out of The Guardian looks back before all of the current hubbub began, at the "secret car" that became of special interest to former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Called the V-Vehicle and created by industrial designer Bryan Thompson, Jobs flew the designer out to San Francisco in 2010 to discuss Thompson's plans for the car, and pick his brain on the status of the automotive industry as a whole.

thompson v-vehicle

Thompson and the V-Vehicle

Thompson and his team created the V-Vehicle with the goal of constructing a disruptive force in the car industry with "a lightweight, petroleum-powered car that used cheaper materials and could sell for just $14,000." They had been working on it for two years when Jobs became interested in their progress, and invited Thompson to his home in Palo Alto to see it for himself.

According to Thompson, within their fifteen minutes together -- Jobs sitting in the driver side and Thompson in the passenger side -- he "learned more about plastics than in his years in design school and auto industry combined." The former Apple CEO discussed his thoughts on the V-Vehicle, focusing a lot of his time on the materials of its body, which were made of polypropylene and glass fibre. The results were a car that was 40 percent lighter than a normal steel-made vehicle, not to mention would cost 70 percent less capital to produce.

v-vehicle interior

The inside of the V-Vehicle

Jobs told Thompson to think about emphasizing the plastic rather than disguising it. “Let the material be honest,” he said, noting the dashboard, which was made of fibre-wood, a composite of synthetic resin and wood pulp. He suggested it would look better designed as one piece that “evoked a sense of high precision” – an idea Jobs often returned to with Apple’s chief design officer Jonathan Ive.

Jobs continued to tip Thompson to take another look at the V-Vehicle's interior, telling him that "a taut surface has a sense that it's full of energy, like an animal ready to pounce. It's a subconscious thing that gives the product an impression of high quality and confidence." Thompson took Jobs' advice to heart and immediately began reworking a few subtle design changes in the car's interior on his flight back home.

Despite the V-Vehicle's potential for success, the business ultimately failed after venture funding evaporated and long-term plans for subsidized manufacturing plants failed due to tighter state budgets. Eventually, Thompson's designs were bought by LCV Capital Management in 2015, and V-Vehicle was renamed Next Autoworks, with a renewed plan to build the car in Italy.

Steve Jobs was said to have passed on building a car in 2008 to focus on the recently launched iPhone, although the former CEO remained interested in the vehicle project throughout the years. Rumors that have ultimately pegged the Apple Car for a 2020 launch began in early 2015, when mysterious vans linked to Apple began being spotted driving around Northern California.

v-vehicle sketch

Thompson's redesigned interior sketch

Those were in fact related to a mapping project, as Apple confirmed later, but the media interest in the potential for an Apple-made vehicle continued to fuel rumors surrounding a car that could potentially "give Tesla a run for its money."

Now, some of Steve Jobs' hopes for the V-Vehicle might be coming to fruition, including Apple's rumored talks to use BMW's i3 as a basis for Project Titan, which would fall in line with Jobs' appreciation of a precise, lightweight unibody material thanks to its carbon fiber outer shell. Those talks reportedly didn't end in an inked deal, but could "resume at a later stage," according to sources within BMW.

You can read The Guardian's full story on the meeting between Steve Jobs and Bryan Thompson.

Popular Stories

iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

iPhone 16 Series Is Just Two Months Away: Everything We Know

Monday July 15, 2024 4:44 am PDT by
Apple typically releases its new iPhone series around mid-September, which means we are about two months out from the launch of the iPhone 16. Like the iPhone 15 series, this year's lineup is expected to stick with four models – iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max – although there are plenty of design differences and new features to take into account. To bring ...
Apple Watch Series 9

2024 Apple Watch Lineup: Key Changes We're Expecting

Tuesday July 16, 2024 7:59 am PDT by
Apple is seemingly planning a rework of the Apple Watch lineup for 2024, according to a range of reports from over the past year. Here's everything we know so far. Apple is expected to continue to offer three different Apple Watch models in five casing sizes, but the various display sizes will allegedly grow by up to 12% and the casings will get taller. Based on all of the latest rumors,...
iPhone 16 Pro Left Side Feature

iPhone 16 Pro Again Rumored to Come in New 'Rose' Color

Tuesday July 16, 2024 3:53 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max will be available in a new "Rose" color, claims a rumor out of China, corroborating previous claims. Chinese Weibo-based leaker OvO Baby Sauce OvO, a relatively new source of supply chain leaks, said on Tuesday that the new color code for the iPhone 16 Pro models is simply "Rose," not the previous "Rose Gold" color that Apple first offered ...
New MacBook Pros Launching Tomorrow With These 4 New Features 2

M5 MacBook Models to Use New Compact Camera Module in 2025

Wednesday July 17, 2024 2:58 am PDT by
Apple in 2025 will take on a new compact camera module (CCM) supplier for future MacBook models powered by its next-generation M5 chip, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Writing in his latest investor note on unny-opticals-2025-business-momentum-to-benefit-509819818c2a">Medium, Kuo said Apple will turn to Sunny Optical for the CCM in its M5 MacBooks. The Chinese optical lens company...
tinypod apple watch

TinyPod Turns Your Apple Watch Into an iPod

Wednesday July 17, 2024 3:18 pm PDT by
If you have an old Apple Watch and you're not sure what to do with it, a new product called TinyPod might be the answer. Priced at $79, the TinyPod is a silicone case with a built-in scroll wheel that houses the Apple Watch chassis. When an Apple Watch is placed inside the TinyPod, the click wheel on the case is able to be used to scroll through the Apple Watch interface. The feature works...
macbook pro january

Best Buy's Black Friday in July Sale Takes Up to $700 Off M3 MacBook Pro for Members

Monday July 15, 2024 11:05 am PDT by
Best Buy's "Black Friday in July" sale is in full swing today, and in addition to a few iPad Air discounts we shared earlier, there are also some steep markdowns on the M3 MacBook Pro. You will need a My Best Buy Plus or Total membership in order to get some of these deals. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small...

Top Rated Comments

Bl0ckHe1d Avatar
106 months ago
Sweet jesus the interior is hideous...
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
106 months ago
Unapologetically plastic.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
smacrumon Avatar
106 months ago
Apple wants to make a Fiat?


Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zirel Avatar
106 months ago
Year 2035AD.

Apple is building a personal space pod using materials only found in Mars.

It turns out that it was all Steve Jobs's idea since the creation of the iPod.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
106 months ago
But, wait, everyone... The future is NOT about owning your own car and spending $14k or more on it. You rely on the cloud for most of your data and use lightweight computers - similarly the future is in transports as a service. Integrated transportation solutions, i.e. what Uber is building. And public transports (high-speed trains...).

I think Apple should invest in self-driving, mapping and power grid management technologies - not in building a $$$$$ piece of metal and plastic that'll spend 95% of its time cluttering public space (i.e. parked), unused.

The car pictured in this rumor makes me think of the Bluecar by Bollore Technologies - cheap, robust, lightweight, and part of a self-service scheme (https://www.autolib.eu/en/). So maybe Apple is trying to compete with that, and with Uber, not with Tesla.
Sorry, you can have my car when I'm dead but not a minute before. Not everyone wants to uber or lives in big urban areas with everything in walking distance. And some of us like driving our cars thank you very much.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
djcerla Avatar
106 months ago
So you're saying... Steve Jobs would n̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ have made a car! :D
In Macrumors whiners-brigade collective mind, Steve Jobs would only have done what they can currently envision, whereas the real Steve Jobs never actually did that, for example dropping cd-rom drives from the Mac, producing an mp3 player and banning Flash from the iPhone, all decisions they harshly criticized back in the days.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)