Greek codenames link secret buildings to Apple Car
Adding credence to the longstanding rumours that tech giant Apple is planning to build a car, a batch of documents obtained by the Silicon Valley Business Journal reveal the company has quietly bought and leased several buildings in California.
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According to Business Insider, the buildings "seemingly relate to Apple's reported plans to build an electric, possibly self-driving car".
Business Insider also brings up a curious incident from earlier this year, when complaints were lodged of late-night "motor noises" originating from a mysterious Apple satellite campus in Sunnyvale, California.
The documents reveal that this particular building is codenamed "Rhea", which could be a direct reference to the car project's alleged codename – Project Titan – as she was one of the Titans of Greek mythology. The plans also make direct reference to several automotive terms, such as "lube bay", "wheel balancer", "tyre changer" and "wheel sensor".
There are several other buildings all named under the "Titans" theme too, says MacRumors. A 290,000sq ft lab called "Zeus" is named, with an exterior service lot completely masked off by a 12ft black plastic and mesh fence.
"Medusa", says the site, has rooms marked "participant testing", "eye tracking", "spray room" and "metal/machine room". While this is nothing majorly out of the ordinary, a list of chemicals used at the facility include car products such as Turtle Wax and Bondo Body Filler. The building is apparently used for "research and design".
According to 9 to 5 Mac, Apple reportedly leased a former Pepsi plant in Silicon Valley last month with its car project in mind and is currently running its operation through a shell company called Sixty Eight Research.
Elon Musk, chief executive of rival carmaker Tesla, says the development of an Apple Car is an "open secret".
Apple car 'ready by 2021 with a price of £53k'
Apple's long-rumoured plans to build a car could see first deliveries rolling off the assembly line in 2021, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
Apple Car Fans spoke to Munster, "one of the world’s most recognized and respected Apple financial analysts", and found him "bullish" in his assertions regarding the tech giant's plans to enter the automotive industry.
"There will be a car that you can see and order in 2019-2020," he said, adding that it won't be on driveways before 2021.
Showing off a device a year or two before it goes on sale is a break from Apple's usual marketing approach, but there's an advantage to the strategy: "to hold up the market in anticipation".
If an Apple car does go into production – something Munster pegs at a better than 50 per cent chance, despite recent reports noting setbacks in the firm's auto division – it should go on sale at $75,000 (£53,000), a price comparable to the Tesla Model S, another electric car set to get self-driving capabilities in the near future.
Munster says that the company has a sizeable team working on the so-called Project Titan, adding that Apple's "biggest concern is growth" and the automotive market offers "a potentially generous amount of it".
While Apple will likely design the car, around 80 per cent of the manufacturing could be outsourced.
Business Insider is sceptical, though, and says the market for luxury electric vehicles [EVs] is still too small, with "very little certainty" over its prospects.
"EVs now make up such a tiny sliver of the overall auto market that there's no place to go but up. However, even with plenty of EV options on the market, consumers aren't really buying the cars," it says. "It's hard to see how [Apple's car] could pay off unless there's a major transformation in the market for mobility".
As for the legitimacy of Munster's beliefs, Jalopnik says it is "all speculation based on insider trading and rumors but it’s also literally this guy’s job to back what he’s heard with reason and criticism for investors". Rumours should be taken with an "apple-car sized grain of salt" and if a car is in the pipeline, we can expect plenty of leaks during its development.
Apple chief remains cryptic over car
Tim Cook has been asked to reveal all regarding Apple's long rumoured project to produce an electric and possibly self-driving car.
In an interview with Fortune magazine, the tech giant's chief executive was asked about the long list of former motor industry engineers and figureheads that have found employment with the company in recent years and whether people are right to join the dots and speculate Apple is on the verge of joining the auto industry.
Asked to put the rumours to rest, Cook said: "Yeah - I'm probably not going to do that".
However, the rest of his cryptically frame answer has people scratching their chins.
"We're curious people", he continued. "We explore technologies and we explore products and we're always thinking about ways that Apple can make great products that people love, that help them in some way."
Some speculate the answer was a very subtle hint right from the horse's mouth that Apple are at the very least exploring the idea of making a car.
Every few weeks, we get "another big piece of the puzzle that is Apple's supposed electric car project", Stuff says, and Cook's tip-toeing around a direct answer is one more.
However, they add that previous reports suggest Apple has a team of around 600 people already working on the car and that the chief executive's answer – despite not confirming the company is making a car – would imply they haven't reached that stage yet if interpreted literally.
"But it's interesting how Cook doesn't outright deny the project or shut down the line of questioning", the site adds.
BGR picks up on the greater level of detail Cook went into regarding "exploring" the idea of an Apple car. "We don't have to spend large amounts of money to explore," he said, not going so far as to hint the vehicle is coming, but throwing lots of fuel on the fire suggesting the company is at least interested.
Apple's hypothetical car is one of the longest running rumours surrounding the company. It's believed they own several car-related facilities in California and some reports have indicated a model could be with us by 2020, says AppleInsider.
More trouble on the horizon for the Apple car
There could be trouble afoot for Apple's long-rumoured plans to build electric and self-driving cars following the departure of a key figure high up in the project, reports the Wall Street Journal.
After 16 years with the company, Steve Zadesky, considered to be the man leading the tech giant's charge in the automotive sector over the last couple of years, is said to be leaving. He initially worked on the iPod and iPhone but it is thought that more recently, he has been overseeing Apple's car ambitions, nicknamed "Project Titan" by many.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Zadesky's departure is due to personal reasons and is not related to his performance on the car project. However, their report highlights grumbles from within the Apple camp regarding the challenges and problems of entering the automotive market.
"Sources say that employees are struggling without 'clear goals for the project' and that some of management's deadlines are too ambitious to hit in the expected timeframes," says Stuff.
They add that Apple supposedly has more than 600 employees working on the project and that it's going to be many years before the finished product breaks cover.
The rumours contrast with the words of Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche, who said Apple is making solid progress in its car ambitions.
"Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed. At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought," he told a German national newspaper, reports Reuters.
Zetsche spoke out not long after Tesla boss Elon Musk said Apple's desire to enter the automotive industry was "an open secret".
Following the news of Zadesky leaving the company, reports have begun to surface on the internet giving more air to the rumours that all is not well in Cupertino for Apple's automotive division.
AppleInsider reports the company has placed a hiring freeze on the team responsible for developing the much-rumoured car, due to executives becoming disillusioned with the direction and progress of the development programme.
It's said to have been initiated by Apple design chief Jony Ive, following a post-Christmas review of the project. AppleInsider cites a " previously reliable source with knowledge of the team's activities" as saying Ive has voiced displeasure with the slow progress Apple's automotive team has made so far.
This is not the first rumour indicating that the company is struggling. The Apple news-site highlights that manufacturing issues have led the tech giant to consider partnering with an established automaker, such as BMW owing to their successful 'i' electric car range.
BGR adds that Ive's displeasure with the direction and progress of the project could stem either from a design point of view or possibly the development team is struggling "to come up with any features that would differentiate the rumored vehicle from, say, what Tesla currently has out on the market".
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