The fact that Apple is developing its own electric car just be one of the worst-kept secrets in tech. But after Hyundai recently spilled the beans on a potential partnership to produce the car with Apple, a new report suggests Hyundai execs are hesitant to move forward with a deal.
According to Reuters, the core issue for some Hyundai higher-ups is that Apple would be in charge of design and marketing while Hyundai would become a contract manufacturer—essentially needing to do the dirty work of actually building the car without being able to reap the rewards.
One unnamed Hyundai exec told Reuters: “We are agonizing over how to do it, whether it is good to do it or not. We are not a company which manufactures cars for others. It is not like working with Apple would always produce great results.”
If Hyundai did agree to a partnership with Apple, the Korean car company would play a similar role as Foxconn does when it comes to the production of the iPhone, becoming Apple’s less visible production partner.
“Tech firms like Google and Apple want us to be like [contract phone maker] Foxconn,” a different unnamed Hyundai exec told Reuters. “A cooperation may initially help raise the brand image of Hyundai or Kia. But in the mid- or longer-term, we will just provide shells for the cars, and Apple would do the brains.”
But manufacturing a car is more complicated and resource-intensive than making a phone, which could give Hyundai more room to influence or control the final product.
“It is really difficult [or Hyundai] to open up,” said one source familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters. “Apple is the boss. They do their marketing, they do their products, they do their brand. Hyundai is also the boss. That does not really work.”
Hyundai appears to still be interested, though it would prefer its subsidiary Kia to be the one responsible for final assembly of an Apple car rather than Hyundai Motors itself. According to another source, Apple would likely demand final assembly of the car to take place within the U.S. Kia has an existing auto plant in Georgia and the brand has already been more aggressive when it comes to producing electric vehicles, so it seems Kia would be the better fit.
At this point, while Hyundai/Kia would appear to make a good partner for Apple in the company’s quest to build a smart electric car, the one thing working against Hyundai is all the leaks and reports about its dealings with Apple. Apple is notoriously secretive when it comes to future products, and it’s probably a safe bet the tech giant doesn’t appreciate Hyundai running its mouth. If Hyundai really wants to make Apple’s car, it probably will have to tamp down on the blabbing.
Either way, it sounds like we won’t see an Apple-designed car until 2025—at the earliest.