The Apple Car Will Be Beautiful & Desirable, Not an Econobox

| John Martellaro's Blog

Many of the contemporary design concepts for the rumored (but almost certain) Apple electric car show a dorky looking econobox because, well, no one knows what it will look like and some kind of design that portrays an eco-attitude is an easy, comfortable premise. I maintain that the Apple car will actually be quite beautiful and desirable. It will have to be to compete.


We're in a quandary. Because we don't know what the Apple car will look like, it's safe to speculate about a very space efficient econobox that is devoid of any daring design elements. Car and Driver, from its Department of Wild-Ass Guesses, recently showed us this in the May, 2016 issue.

NOT gonna happen. Image credit: Car & Driver

In addition, also very recently, "Motor Trend convened a panel of people from AppleInsider, CNet, Roadshow, Motor Trend itself, and designers from the Art Center College of Design." They came up with this.

 Also NOT gonna happen. Image credit: Motor Trend

As my colleague, Bryan Chaffin, noted these cars look like designs from the 1980s for a futuristic car of the 1990s.

More to the point, it's just not possible to fantasize about a really good looking car because tastes in cars vary so widely. One person's dream Lamborghini Huracán is declared ugly by another whose interests lean more towards boxy and practical.

Lamborghini Huracán. Image credit: Lamborghini

Marketing and Messaging

But that doesn't mean we can't theorize, with a broad brush, that the Apple electric car has to look really good to a lot of people. Tesla has, I think, proven that point. The early Tesla models and the recent Tesla Model 3, don't look like econoboxes. Thet look tempting and desirable. Enough so that, as of this writing, 320,000 people put down US$1,000 to hold a spot for a Model 3. And stood in line to do so.

Tesla Model 3. Image Credit: Tesla

These designs do not telegraph the idea that the car is limited, somehow by its battery capacity. Instead, the message is that batteries enable performance, if done right. The car design telegraphs the message the maker wants to send.

Here's a design for the Apple car that won a contest at Freelancer.

Image credit: Freelancer

Compare that to cars that send an entirely different kind of message to the owner who may wish to cooperate in sending a statement to others.

BMW i3. Image credit:  BMW

And so, while it's perilous to go out on a limb with exotic designs, one thing is fairly certain. Apple has to:

  • Appeal to a wide range of people so that the car is commercially successful.
  • Look so cool that, like the Tesla Model 3, people will stand in line for it.
  • Decide what those people feel is important about the design of an electric car and what kind of message they want to wrap themselves in.
  • Balance safety, practicality and looks.
  • Reconcile all of the above.

This no simple task. Make it too boxy and car enthusiasts and car magazines will write it off as a California econobox. Make it look too sleek and sexy and people who are of a mind to buy an electric car for the first time will find it impractical and overly glitzy. 

As time goes on, we probably won't be able to resolve the basic conflict I described above. All kinds of crazy designs will be presented. But one thing is certain. No matter what the design is, Apple will have to make a reliable, quality, comfortable car that people will enjoy. It will have some breakthroughs in technology, but they'll have to be easy to understand and digest. The car will have exude safety and class.

Most of all, it must be beautiful by some consensus standard and be highly desirable. Econoboxes don't achieve that. That's my thesis, and I'm sticking to it.

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Department of Wild-Ass Guesses

Oh man I’m gonna chuckle about that all day. Hell, I’ll probably use it.

Lee Dronick

It wouldn’t surprise me if the roof, and perhaps other mostly horizontal surfaces, are covered with solar panels that look like a painted surface.


As long as it looks like the 60’s Batmobile I’ll buy one.


Regarding the LeSee (from Motor Authority) a Tesla-like car:
<< LeEco, formerly Letv, is no fly-by-nighter. The company is the brainchild of Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting and is the backer of American electric car startup Faraday Future, which earlier this year rolled out a 1,000-horsepower electric supercar concept and this month started work on a car plant in Nevada. LeEco is also working with Aston Martin to develop electric car technology and infotainment systems.
At its press conference, LeEco’s Yueting summoned the LeSee by simply speaking into his phone. After a quick showing, Yueting then ordered the car to return and park itself. >>
I guess one benefit in Apple coming late - you figure they won’t have a car for another 5 years minimum - is they can learn and take the “best of the rest” from the many EVs out now and near future by all the major car co.s and by then full autonomy will be more mature and legal in more than the couple states now. Also they should take the cue and make the car a hybrid of fuel cell AND grid based battery tech for flexibility. What a friggin’ gamble for Apple - with zero expertise in the market.

Lee Dronick

  I guess one benefit in Apple coming late - you figure they won’t have a car for another 5 years minimum - is they can learn and take the “best of the rest”

Well we don’t know when they will have a car, but yeah the second mouse gets the cheese.

  What a friggin’ gamble for Apple - with zero expertise in the market.

Apple is not one person, the auto design expertise can be hired and they have been doing a lot of that.



I’m not sure in which state in the USA Motortrend convened its expert panel, but I suspect it was one in which marijuana is legalised, because clearly, these guys inhaled. Furthermore, it’s obvious what they did between puffs. They took a bathtub, inverted it and stuck wheels under it and called it minimalist. A few puffs later, one of them said, ‘Let’s paint it gold, dude! And give it black windows…like an iPhone, you know!?’ Painting that tub gold is tantamount to putting lipstick on a pig. Not helpful.

As for that abominable snow - mobile at the top, words fail. To say that’s it’s as ugly as sin would be unfair, because some sins at least are fun, even if only in the short term, whereas from start to finish, this thing is painful to behold, so much so that ownership would be intolerable. No, the word that springs to mind is that used for Medusa, ‘hideous’. Indeed, I can feel myself turning to stone already.

Somewhere along the way, the creators of these two hallucinations lost sight of both the principles of minimalism and basic physics; they never had taste. Regarding minimalism, design choice of form must still follow function; this thing has to move efficiently through a fluid medium, air, while minimising impact on battery life. This raises the issue of physics; a box is not aerodynamic. Thanks for playing, but no. Just no. The thing has to be streamlined.

In this regard, a minimalist design would need to start by being an efficient aerodynamic shape, without trendy frills, flare or flourishes or other embellishments that weary the user. That design choice, in turn, will be driven by physics to define that efficient shape, and tested through modelling and wind tunnels until engineers are and designers alike are satisfied. If properly done, it will convey both power and speed simply standing still. And capability, even before the owner enters the cockpit. Furthermore, regarding the design, from chassis to cockpit to under-the-bonnet refinements, we can take a page from the Apple Watch. The designers are likely to start with a classic motif (think of the watch shape and the crown) and repurpose it for the 21st Century. These surprises will both delight and enrich the user experience.

In short, whatever the Apple car will be, we haven’t seen it in these pages.

Lee Dronick

  I’m not sure in which state in the USA Motortrend convened its expert panel, but I suspect it was one in which marijuana is legalised, because clearly, these guys inhaled.

They are like any other publication, TV station, or website, they need viewers in order to survive. That often requires baiting clicks.


In that case, Lee, their survival is jeopardise. They made my eyes bleed.


If a Tesla Model 3 were available for delivery today, it would be my choice. Reserving now and waiting until 2017/2018 ( and this makes some big assumptions about Tesla’s manufacturing capacity ) for a car I can’t test drive won’t happen and it’s likely many others are similarly reluctant. Tesla’s beautiful designs generate strong demand but their production planning is behind the curve.

Apple will undoubtedly anticipate the production needs and have them ready ( recent news articles describe apparently failed attempts to negotiate deals with BMW and Mercedes ). Buyers will feel confident in Apple’s ability to support their car should it need repair( I’m sure many have noticed Tesla has yet to be profitable and burns through cash at an alarming rate ) . In short, John’s bullet points portray a company that plans carefully and will be ready to deliver.

Apple car pricing should be interesting. Selling Macs, iPads, iPhones where the price tops out at approximately $4000 is reachable by many folks but $35k to $45k ( the actual range for model 3 with options ) probably reduces Apple’s buyer pool.


Lee Dronick

  They made my eyes bleed.

“Someone call him a doctor!”

‘Okay, he is a doctor.” rimshot smile

Seriously though I have stopped reading some news websites because they have become mostly click-bait. Except websites such as The Onion which are all in fun.

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