Rumors of the Apple Car just refuse to go away. Despite a stony silence from Apple, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , reported on April 18 that Apple is operating a secret laboratory for the development of an automobile — in the middle of Berlin, no less. In addition, there are concrete plans to sell the car in Germany. The newspaper, known as FAZ, cites “informed sources” as the basis for its report. It says there are 15 to 20 “progressive thinkers” involved with the Berlin facility.
Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is pursuing the development of an automobile under the code name Project Titan. Reuters reports that Apple had hired away Jamie Carlson, a senior engineer formerly employed by Tesla Motors, along with Megan McClain of Volkswagen. It also has landed Vinay Palkkode from Carnegie Mellon University and Paul Furgale of ETH Zurich.
Autoblog reports there are a few more interesting details in the FAZ story. Allegedly, the first-gen Apple Cars might not be autonomous. It will not appear until 2019 at the earliest and it may be available first through a car sharing arrangement as well as direct sales. The most unexpected part of the FAZ report is that the car, when ready for production, will be built by Magna at its factory in Austria.
Magna is a conglomerate that makes major components for many automakers. It also builds completed cars for clients. It is presently involved in the production of the BMW i3 and certain models of the MINI. Reportedly, it would transfer the MINI business to other locations to make room for the Apple Car.
Magna CEO Don Walker told the press last year, “We are, in my opinion, the best contract manufacturer in the world. [With] our ability to do small volume niche vehicle production and help with the engineering and the launch and the procurement … we’d be a logical person for anybody if they have small volume or [are] a new entrant coming out.”
Lyle Dennis, who runs Apple Car Fans, tells AutoblogGreen he thinks the rumored German connection is true. “I suspect this is real. There have been discussions between Apple and BMW. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did build the Apple car there.” Asked to comment on the story by FAZ, Apple characteristically said it “does not comment on rumors and speculation.”
So, there really is no hard information to go on other than some unknown “informed sources.” But operating strictly on a “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” basis, there are just too many reports and rumors flying around about the Apple Car to say that nothing is going on. Something definitely is happening in Cupertino where Apple has its headquarters. Maybe some day we will find out precisely what Apple is up to behind its corporate Cone of Silence.