Nissan Denies Reports of Apple Car Partnership Discussions
Apple is expected to partner with a third-party car maker to build its rumored self-driving car with reports surfacing in January suggesting that Apple was eyeing Hyundai to be the official partner for Apple Car. Subsequent reports suggest Apple is actively pursuing all of its options and talking to a number of different manufacturers.
In the latest round of speculation, Apple reportedly approached Nissan in the last few months about a potential partnership for a self-driving car, according to a paywalled Financial Times report. The report states that negotiations between the two companies were "brief" and that discussions did not make their way to higher executive or leadership levels in either company due to disagreements over the specifics of the Apple Car.
It's worth noting that an older report by Nikkei Asia cited Nissan as one of at least six Japanese automakers that Apple is eyeing for the Apple Car. The report didn't, however, provide specific details as to the progress of any talks, or if Apple is ultimately siding with one carmaker over the others.
Nissan and Apple reportedly clashed over how a partnership would actually play out. Nissan reportedly was concerned that a deal with Apple would downgrade Nissan to simply a "hardware supplier." The Apple Car is expected to be fully branded by Apple, including Apple software and design. While Apple holds the in-house ability to design its own software and hardware, it's not positioned to build the actual hardware at a mass scale, which is why a partnership is considered to be a hallmark of the project itself.
During an earnings presentation, Nissan's COO Ashwani Gupta stated that Nissan is open to partnerships, but only if the opposite party adapts to Nissan's services, not vice versa. The COO said that Nissan has its own customer base to satisfy and that it will not "change the way" it makes cars.
Earlier in the year following reports of a potential tie-up with Apple, Hyundai's shares surged by more than 25% but remained volatile after negotiations came to a standstill. Attempting to avoid from a similar scenario, Nissan quickly and unequivocally confirmed in a statement that it's "not in talks" with Apple but remains open to working with other companies.
Apple remains a tightly secretive company that rarely confirms the existence of unreleased products and projects. The statement by Hyundai earlier in the year confirming it's in negotiations with the tech giant undoubtedly upset Apple executives as it was seen as a confirmation that Apple is pursuing a partnership for a potential self-driving car. The statement was quickly reworded to remove mention of Apple, and soon after, talks between the two came to a screeching halt.
Despite the plentiful number of reports about Apple's self-driving car, sources suggest that we won't be seeing it on the road until at least 2026. Bloomberg reports that the Apple Car is "nowhere near production stage," and that a release is at least half a decade away. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the most reputable analysts for Apple, still believes that despite Hyundai's mishap, Apple will ultimately side with the carmaker as the official partner for its self-driving car ambitions.