Fiat Chrysler CEO Thinks Legacy Car Makers Should Build the Apple Car

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Apple CarFiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks that Apple should leave car building to the car industry. They're complex devices, after all. Plus, he has just the company for the job. Because he's an "Apple Freak" who owns one of everything Apple makes, Mr. Marchionne thinks Fiat Chrysler would be a great manufacturing partner for Apple.

Mr. Marchionne made the comments at Geneva International Motor Show, according to Bloomberg, where he said, "I would assume that we have the credibility to be one of the players they have looked at. There are parts of us that would be interesting for them."

Let's ignore the low-hanging fruit of criticizing Fiat's legendary quality, or lack thereof. Fiat Chrysler likely doesn't have what it takes to earn Apple's business, and if they did it would be because Apple sees something we don't. It will either happen or it won't. (Hint: it won't.)

The more interesting question to me is whether Apple needs legacy auto makers to make its own car. It's easy to dismiss the notion because Apple has a history of disrupting industries by not doing what everyone else does, but I don't think it's as cut and dry as that.

Software

For instance, an argument that I (and many others) have made is that a car is just another computer. This is true, and it gets more true every year. Apple is one of the world's preeminent software companies, and as such it seems that Apple can apply its know-how to make a better car than others, to think differently about cars.

This argument applies most to thinking about how and why Apple is qualified to design a car. Designing a car and manufacturing a car are separate things.

Another tried and true thought process is that we've been down this road before. When rumors about an Apple smartphone began circulating, legacy cellphone makers and industry analysts scoffed. Apple doesn't know anything about cellphones, they said dismissively, the cellphone market is way different than computers, and they're very complicated devices.

We know how that worked out, and Apple fans have a lot of justification for throwing that in the face of auto makers who say the exact same things about making cars. I know I have gleefully done so on a number of occasions.

Mechanics

But...there's a devil's advocate position: there are so many reasons to argue that the ever-increasing importance of software makes Apple the ideal company to design a modern car and disrupt the legacy industry, but there really are a lot of differences when it comes to making them.

For instance, very few Macs, iPhones, or iPads have tires. Almost none of them have drive trains. Or transmissions. Or Airbags. Or windshield wipers. Show me the Apple TV that has to withstand a 40 mile per hour crash with another Apple TV while minimizing injury to its occupants.

When looking at these and other mechanical aspects, cars are a departure from Apple's expertise, and that's not even considering the regulatory side of things, where a myriad of new factors enter the game. With such things in mind, it becomes a lot easier to think Apple does need help from the folks who have been making cars for decades.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not actually arguing that Apple pair up with Fiat Chrysler or anyone else. As I've said before, Apple has enough money and talent to learn whatever it needs to learn. It has enough money and talent to make a gillion mistakes before bringing a car to market.

Apple also has far, far more manufacturing expertise than most people realize. Many think of Apple as just-another-outsourcer, unaware of how closely Apple micromanages its manufacturing partners. Apple owns and/or invents a lot of the specialized tools used in making its devices, and Apple has invented untold manufacturing processes when those partners weren't thinking differently enough to suit Apple's needs.

Put another way, if Tesla can manufacture its own cars, so can Apple.

But there's one more twist on this thought-train: Apple itself has talked to at least two legacy auto makers about making its cars, BMW and Magna Steyr. Apple hasn't inked a deal with either company to our knowledge, but it's obvious that even Apple thinks it should check in with the old guard.

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Comments

Dennis Pluym

i agree with this article and just wanted to point out besides apple getting into the cell phone and totally changing the industry i see the same thing by another company jersey jack pinball is using a computer CPU to run and control the entire pinball machine, lights, etc which in my opinion is going to be a game change in that industry too, so with apples software know how running and making sure they are running correctly it could totally change the auto making overnight.  it mostly will not be cheap but it will set a precedent.  just a thought!

RonMacGuy

For instance, very few Macs, iPhones, or iPads have tires.

Bryan, who says the Apple car is going to have tires?

grin

 

jhorvatic

I believe that competitors have said that about the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch. Apple has done all of these with great success while its competitors were saying they could do none at the time. Apple as a company is much smarter then the competition thinks. Apple has always been about RND long before putting out any kind of product. The iPhone took 7 years before they released it. Knee jerk reactions from competitors always seem to be the same. Apple can’t do this or that. They always have to learn the hard way when Apple releases a product and the sales soar.

CudaBoy

Sergio= Clown Shoes. Apple freak my eye - he ears a black sweater and that’s about the end of it. Can anyone point to ANYTHING Serge has done right in the past 10 years? He’s ruining what’s left of Chrysler’s bones after the Germans pillaged the funds and now he’s shopping FCA like a pimp to anyone that will listen - and nobody will.  He was recently quoted as saying electric and Ferrari would NEVER happen - “insane” I think he said - while all the other major supercars are going hybrid. He DID make one accurate statement and that is that Apple would be crazy to get into the car biz - to say that because Tesla did it from ground up , than so can Apple is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard - as the 2nd place phone importer (no Apple doesn’t even make their phones) in the world they should stick to making phones better and stop this car tomfoolery.

daemon

I know the community here likes to make fun of anyone who voices an opinion that conflicts with Apple bring anything other than perfect (remember when you guys swore up and down that the 3.5 inch iPhone was the perfect cell phone size?)

But I wonder if Apple’s car won’t follow the path of the iPhone. It’ll start out not street legal, like most kit cars and imports (there’s an entire economy built on importing cars from Japan that aren’t street legal in the US (It’s mostly because you have to destroy at least two cars in crash tests, and pass the tests, to be street legal) so you’ll be able to drive it on private roads and race tracks. It’ll cost 9 times as the highest specced automobile on the market. And it will sit only one person. All of these will be considered features until the 3G version is offered in a limited street legal model, it will cost 4 times as much as the original model because you’ll also pay for the cars used for crash testing. The 3GS version will allow you to charge the car at home instead of at the Apple store. The 4S model will come with two seats, one in front and one in back. The 6+ will introduce the first 2+2 seating option and the 6S+ will introduce the first SUV version, all previous models from this point on will be deprecated, all reference materials to them seized and burned, and the cars themselves will no longer turn on. All attempts to circumvent the software that enforces this will be prosecuted under the DMCA circumvention clause.

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