Apple Car's Decade of Development and 'Failure' Detailed in New Report

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Drake Bennett today published an in-depth report examining Apple's decade-long attempt at creating an electric vehicle. The project was reportedly canceled last week after many challenges and setbacks.

Apple car wheel icon Kevin Lynch feature blue revamp

Apple vice president Kevin Lynch, who oversaw the electric vehicle project in its later years

The report described a 2020 prototype of Apple's electric vehicle:

The prototype, a white minivan with rounded sides, an all-glass roof, sliding doors and whitewall tires, was designed to comfortably seat four people and inspired by the classic flower-power Volkswagen microbus. The design was referred to within Apple, not always affectionately, as the Bread Loaf. The plan was for the vehicle to hit the market some five years later with a giant TV screen, a powerful audio system and windows that adjusted their own tint. The cabin would have club seating like a private plane, and passengers would be able to turn some of the seats into recliners and footrests.

Apple once considered acquiring Tesla to bolster its efforts, the report said:

But before sketching out its own designs, Apple considered acquiring Tesla. At that point the electric-car maker's success was far from assured, and its value was less than $30 billion, or a 20th of what it is today. Adrian Perica, Apple's head of corporate development, held a series of meetings with Elon Musk. But Cook, who'd succeeded Jobs three years earlier, shut the deal down while negotiations were still at an early stage.

Apple also considered partnering with or acquiring Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, McLaren, and other automakers, according to the report:

Talks with Mercedes-Benz progressed further. For a few months, Apple and the German automaker actively worked on a partnership similar to the Tesla idea, but with a twist. Mercedes would manufacture Apple's vehicle, while it would also sell its own cars with Apple's self-driving platform and user interface. Apple eventually pulled out, in part because the early work gave its executives confidence they could build a car on their own, people involved in the failed deal say.

The project was ultimately a "failure" due to indecision, the report said:

But Apple never got close to realizing its original vision, or any of its subsequent ones. It didn't get as far as testing a full-scale prototype on public roads. That it didn't is partly thanks to the enormous technical difficulty of its self-driving goals, as well as the punishing economics of the automaking business. The project was also a failure, at the highest levels of the company, to settle on one thing and do it.

The report detailed how Apple's COO Jeff Williams and Apple Car chief Kevin Lynch broke the news of the project's cancellation to employees:

The meeting lasted about 12 minutes. Both men thanked the staffers for their work and got straight to the reorg and layoffs. Some employees would immediately get shifted to Apple's AI division, and some would move over to software engineering. A chunk of the team, though, was immediately without a job. Hardware engineers would have the opportunity to apply for roles in other groups, but there aren't spots for everyone. Other employees, such as the hundreds of car-specific engineers, test track technicians, self-driving car testers and automotive safety experts, received emails with their severance packages. As for the Arizona track, Apple is already working to sell it.

Other notable details mentioned in the report include that Steve Jobs was apparently first to raise the idea of Apple building a vehicle, and that some Apple employees received a tour of Jay Leno's garage and his car collection early on.

Bloomberg's full report is a worthwhile read for those interested in learning more about Apple's vehicle project, and we also shared our own recap last week.

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Top Rated Comments

TheLinkster Avatar
14 weeks ago
Gurman has zero credibility. I'd sooner read a "report" on the benefits of cocaine written by Pablo Escobar.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mac Fly (film) Avatar
14 weeks ago
In summary: when Steve died so did his balls.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sunny5 Avatar
14 weeks ago
1. Apple has no technology to build a car. I mean literally, the car technology is not simple but extremely complicated and requires different types of technology that Apple does not have.

2. Nobody wished to outsourcing for Apple. They all know how thinks work and they seriously hate how Apple treated them.

3. It's just a stupid move from the beginning and a lot of experts already expected their failure 10 years ago. Nothing new.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
erikkfi Avatar
14 weeks ago
Acquiring an existing automaker would be a smart move, especially one that you might be able to buy at fire-sale prices and then fix up (Rivian or Fisker?). Then they'd be committed and probably would've gotten more focus instead of zig-zagging between "a car is infrastructure and hardware" and "a car is just software" (plot twist: it's both ??‍???‍?).
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
madmin Avatar
14 weeks ago
Looking forward to a similar report about Vision Pro and then how Apple are doing a reset with a new executive team
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aj_niner Avatar
14 weeks ago

3. It's just a stupid move from the beginning and a lot of experts already expected their failure 10 years ago. Nothing new.
Reminds me of doomers speak of the

- iMac
- iPod
- iPhone

But to be fair the failed Apple Car may be to the wrong people being put in charge of it. They needed people in the automotive industry working for them rather than Mac, iPhone or iPod people.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)