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What We Know About the Apple Car That Never Was

By Motley Fool Staff – Oct 27, 2016 at 4:40PM

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After years of whispers, rumors, and semi-official statements about Project Titan, the car itself doesn’t seem to be materializing.

We've heard murmurs about an Apple (AAPL 0.83%) car for years now, yet no official word has ever been released from Cupertino about such a vehicle.

In this clip from Industry Focus: Industrials, Motley Fool analyst Sean O'Reilly and senior auto specialist John Rosevear explain what we know about the potential project, and why the company is playing its car so close to the vest.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Oct. 20, 2016.

Sean O'Reilly: You are clearly the person to talk to about today's topic, which is -- Dylan Lewis over on the Tech podcast is going to be mad, we're talking about Apple, but not about iPhones or computers. We're talking about their plans to build a car, or lack thereof.

John Rosevear: Yeah. Here's what we know. Apple, of course, has said nothing about this officially, except a couple little hints from people like [CEO] Tim Cook. But, what we know from reports is that Apple, for a while, has had a team called Project Titan, which is pursuing the idea of building an Apple car -- or, maybe an Apple car service, it's never been completely clear. Bloomberg came out with a report on Monday confirming some other things that have come out of Silicon Valley in the last few months, saying Apple has scaled this thing way back. Initially, they planned to build their own car, which might have been a futuristic electric car, sort of to out-Tesla Tesla.

O'Reilly: It would look like a Mac mouse, probably.

Rosevear: No idea. A lot of the Apple senior execs are car enthusiasts. Eddy Cue is on the board of Ferrari. These people are into cars. There's kind of been this project for a long time, even Steve Jobs had talked about it. Tim Cook said last year, "The auto industry is an inflection point for massive change," which was kind of a big hint that the car is going to be the next device and Apple's going to play. The hint was they were working on this revolutionary new high-tech electric car, or possibly a premium Apple-branded ride-hailing service, something fully automated. Like robot Uber, only it's fully integrated with the Apple device ecosphere, so it knows your iPhone and your iPad and your Mac and everything else, and it all works the same way. This project had over 1,000 people on it at one point.

O'Reilly: Which makes one's eyebrows pop.

Rosevear: Right. Even for Apple, that's a big crew, it's something serious. They're spending a good amount of money here. But something changed at the end of last year or the beginning of this year. It looks like senior management decided to scale the thing way back. Steve Zadesky was a former Ford engineer who had been with Apple for a while, leading the project, he left early this year. It was taken over by Bob Mansfield, who's a longtime Apple veteran, has held all sorts of roles in the company for many years ...

O'Reilly: But, obviously, no auto industry experience.

Rosevear: Right. It was sort of like, "OK, the old Apple culture is bringing this back in." The team was told, "We're not going to build a car now. We're going to work on an underlying self-driving program," which is a big shift.

John Rosevear owns shares of Apple and Ford. Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Ford, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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