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.