German Car Makers Wary of Apple but Seeking Cooperation

Daimler's chief executive has just declared that different types of cooperation are possible with Apple and Google. What he may be saying is that some U.S. high tech companies are moving so fast, in car technology, the conventional car industry cannot afford to be left behind. Joint ventures are being looked at.

BMW's i3 electric car has been of technical interest to Apple. Image credit: BMW

Reuters reported on Friday that in an interview in Deutsche Unternehmerboerse, Daimler's CEO Dieter Zetsche said "Many things are conceivable."

Jockeying for Position

Previously at TMO we noted that Apple has also been talking with BMW. Apparently, Apple has an interest in the technology of BMW's i3 carbon-fiber body shell. The subtext of all this is that:

  1. Apple would like to learn some things about advanced car manufacturing technologies.
  2. The German car companies don't want to give up any big, crucial secrets about how they make cars.
  3. Apple likely thinks it can bring forth a new generation of software & silicon technology integrated into cars, especially when it comes to the user interface, system security and self-driving technology.
  4. The German car companies, fearing they cannot keep up with the R&D of Apple & Google don't want to be relegated to being mere parts suppliers.
  5. No company, be it BMW, Daimler or any other car company, wants to be left out of an aggressive joint venture between Apple or Google and one of their competitors.
  6. Intelligent cooperation with Apple can keep the door open to both companies prospering.

Mr. Zetsche more or less confirmed all this when he said, "Google and Apple want to provide system software for cars and bring this entire ecosystem around Apple and Google into the vehicle. That can be interesting for both sides....We don't want to become contractors who have no direct content with customers any more and supply hardware to third parties,"

There appears to be some palpable fear that Apple can learn about car manufacturing faster than traditional car companies can learn about advanced user interface software, security and AI technology.

The race is on.