It’s one of the tech industry’s worst kept secrets that a large group of Apple employees are working on a car project, known internally as Project Titan. But there’s a difference between working on a project and actually shipping a finished product, and the Volkswagen CEO is the last voice to cast public doubt on the prospects of an Apple Car coming to market.
Reuters reports that Herbert Diess said yesterday: “I’m not sure if Apple will eventually bring cars to market. It would be a big effort.”
Diess, speaking at the hub.berlin tech conference in Berlin, added that he used to be sure that Apple wants to enter the car market on the software side, but that’s not quite the same.
Diess certainly has a point. The auto industry has a high entry cost and it will be difficult for Apple to make a real car without the help of an existing automaker. The tech giant is notoriously difficult to work with, and asking an automaker to help make an Apple Car is a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.
However, it is also important to note that Diess is by no means an uninterested observer in all of this. In 2021, he emphasized that VW is not afraid of the competition an Apple Car would bring, but Tesla’s success means the auto industry is well aware of the disruptive potential of technology. Telling the world that the Apple Car won’t change the industry is one way to make sure it doesn’t, by dampening enthusiasm and convincing Apple shareholders that it wouldn’t be a productive avenue for development.
And here’s one last tidbit that illustrates both how long the Apple Car has been around and the curious love-hate relationship the company has had with automakers. At the time, Volkswagen itself reportedly had talks with Apple about jointly developing a vehicle, but the negotiations came to nothing. At the time, both companies had different CEOs; VW was led by Martin Winterkorn and Apple by a man you may have heard of by the name of Steve Jobs. Because this happened in 2007.
Maybe in another 15 years the Apple Car will finally be a reality. Or maybe we’ve finally stopped talking about it. But right now, both prospects seem distant.