Apple was in talks with McLaren about investing in the firm, but discussions have ceased for now
Sam Sheehan
21 September 2016

Apple were in talks to buy, invest in or work with McLaren, Autocar understands - but those talks are now understood to have stalled.

The Financial Times broke the news that Apple and McLaren had been in discussions over a potential £1.5bn takeover, but this was subsequently denied by a McLaren spokesman, who said: "We are not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment".

However, he added McLaren "regularly has confidential conversations with a wide range of parties".

Autocar understands that this last comment alludes to the fact that Apple and McLaren did hold high-level talks about working together on the California-based tech firm's road car, the so-called codenamed Project Titan.

The potential tie-up would have accelerated Apple's plans for its first production car model, which has been in the making for several years and which is tipped to launch in 2020. Thanks to its Formula 1 team and technology division, McLaren has expertise in exotic car production, advanced engineering and data, making it an attractive proposition for a brand like Apple that is new to cars.

Rumours of Apple's interest in and around Formula 1 were first broken by F1 reporter - and former Autocar Grand Prix editor - Joe Saward in July. It was suggested then that Apple was interested in buying the rights to Formula 1, which have subsequently been sold to Liberty Media for a reported £6bn. However, it is now understood that talks included collaborating with or buying the McLaren Group.

The asking price of £1.5 billion would have made McLaren Apple's biggest purchase since it bought Beats Electronics in 2014 for $3 billion (about £2.3 billion). Apple is said to be particularly interested in McLaren's extensive patent lists, as well as the company's engineering expertise and technology.

The Apple iCar  - will it happen?

The so-called Apple iCar has been the subject of much speculation since rumours of the tech giant's interest in producing a car first surfaced in 2014. Initially dubbed 'Project Titan', it is as yet unclear whether Apple intends to launch its own model or partner with another car maker to bring new technology and connectivity options to the market.

The challenges Apple would face in bringing its own bespoke model to market have been well-documented, so partnering with a manufacturer like McLaren would help to give Apple vital experience of the car industry. Choosing a premium brand also fits with Apple's ethos of making desirable, high-end products. Those known to have held talks with Apple over the past year include executives from Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz.

McLaren has big ambitions to scale up its operations and increase production, with a replacement for the current McLaren 650S being the next car due to launch from the British manufacturer. The company sold 1654 cars in 2015 and wants that number to triple by the end of 2020.

Intriguingly, McLaren is one of the few mainstream car makers not to offer functionality for Apple's CarPlay infotainment system at present.

So why is Apple interested in McLaren?

It's important to differentiate between McLaren's car operations and McLaren Technology Group. The technology side of the business uses innovations derived from McLaren's Formula 1 operations for a variety of purposes, including data collection and analysis, performance engineering and electronic control systems.

The kind of data analysis McLaren provides could be crucial to bringing an electric car to market - for example, predicting traffic flow for an autonomous driving system and simulating how such technology would work in practice.

Having key experience in Formula 1, where updates and technologies must be applied in weeks rather than months or years, will also be a key asset of McLaren Technology Group. Whereas most car makers update their products every five to ten years, Apple updates its technology offerings every year. Having an automotive company that can move in the sort of timescales Apple is used to, therefore, is an obvious appeal.

McLaren Technology Group encompasses McLaren Racing, McLaren Automotive and McLaren Applied Technologies, but it's the last of those three that Apple is understood to be most interested in.

Dozens of staff were reportedly let go from Apple's car project last week, prompting rumours that the company was abandoning its electric car ambitions. That move may now be seen as the company preparing to acquire McLaren.

The Apple iCar - what do we know?

Apple's planned bespoke model will focus on so-called 'disruptive technologies' - meaning it will feature systems and ideas that radically change the face of modern motoring. As such, it's expected to be fully electric, come with an advanced autonomous driving system, have a big focus on connectivity and feature the kind of artificial intelligence on which Apple's current Siri personal assistant is based.

The iCar is expected to feature a highly contemporary design, with a premium look inside and out. Expect plenty of high-quality materials to adorn the interior, with a big focus on intelligent and innovative infotainment systems. Advanced voice recognition and gesture controls are likely. 

Apple is expected to develop its own lithium ion battery for the iCar, allowing it to precisely control the vehicle's range. Apple's batteries are claimed to provide increased energy density due to unique cooling properties, which would likely be used in combination with new-generation electric motors currently being developed by the company.

Current rumours suggest that the iCar - or at least the first iteration of the vehicle - will take the shape of a one-box MPV-style car with similar proportions to VW's Budd-e concept - another model which placed significant importance on digitisation and autonomous driving.

Read more:

How the Apple iCar could crack the automotive industry 

Opinion - why Apple would want to buy McLaren 

Our Verdict

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Comments
24

21 September 2016
Wow. That's a bolt from the blue! My concern would be that Apple will be less concerned about the current range of super cars, and more interested in the talented team at McLaren. But maybe the super car is a dying breed anyhow.

21 September 2016
McLaren deny


21 September 2016
they will move production to a Chinese sweatshop, and charge significantly more for an inferior product, just because it looks nice?

21 September 2016
..and remember Apple invented the car in the first place

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

21 September 2016
xxxx wrote:

..and remember Apple invented the car in the first place

Haha! that was the killer joke for me.

21 September 2016
I know Apple products look good and well made but my kids phones only seem to last past the warranty period , then go K-put,the same with some I pods as well in contrast to my son whom has Samsung and Nexus products that appear far better.I wonder if Apple just play off their name these days.

21 September 2016
Apple: "Because we can". Nothing else Apple can do, except squeeze governments to pay even less taxes. Seinfeld would say: "we're living in a bizarro world, where everything is upside down". How can Beats Electronics be worth twice what McLaren is valued at? Strange indeed.

jer

21 September 2016
It'll end with a politics between Mc and California. They'll run down the business and start something elsewhere using the intellectual property whilst saying its a pure Apple car.

21 September 2016
Oh no, and, more lost tax revenue.

21 September 2016
my first thoughts too.. then the thought of maclaren losing it...

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