McLaren Denies Apple Takeover Or Investment Talks

Apple is not in talks to purchase high performance car maker McLaren, the British automotive brand has declared.

“We can confirm that McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment. As you would expect, the nature of our brand means we regularly have confidential conversations with a wide range of parties, but we keep them confidential,” is said in a statement.

This pours water on the fires started by the Financial Times that three people briefed on the subject said the Apple is considering a full take over of McLaren or a strategic investment, which has stemmed out of talks that were started three months ago.

Apple has allegedly spent the past couple of years working in secret on an electric vehicle likely with autonomous technology, in a similar but more clandestine fashion to Google and its driverless car development.

Accelerating Apple automotive

The report came at a time when Apple has apparently laid-off staff from the automotive division it apparently has, which is refocusing its efforts away from driverless car development to working on the underlying software for autonomous vehicles.

If this is the case, then a partnership with a car maker would seem like the prudent course of action to get that underlying software on the road. But McLaren would seem like an odd choice in some ways.

The two companies have a similar ethos when it comes to obsessively engineering the minutia details of their products; Apple known for its design orientated engineering, McLaren renowned for squeezing out the maximum performance for both its road and Formula One cars.

And Apple, with its vast coffers of cash, could afford McLaren which is valued between £1 billion and £1.5 billion.

But such an acquisition would come as quite a shake-up as both the technology and automotive industries collaborate but neither have fully crossed over into each others domains, with the exception of Tesla, though it is an automotive company set up by a technology entrepreneur rather than an evolution of a corporate takeover.

Any deal would see Apple also gain control of McLaren’s Applied Technology business.

Driving forward

McLaren is also a loss making company, so an injection of cash from Apple would not do it any harm. But while Apple’s iPhones are at the premium end of the smartphone market,

McLaren’s cars start at a £100,000 and top out somewhere around a million pounds, making them rather unaffordable for all but Apple fans with very deep pockets and a sympathetic bank manger.

A more realistic course of action would be for Apple to partner with a mass market car makers like Ford in order to make access to its technology more affordable.

For example, Nvidia has its Drive PX 2 platform which allows car makers, notably Volvo to have a hardware and software platform on which to develop, train and test autonomous system.

However, Apple has always presented its products as aspirational devices, so perhaps having a high-end sports car with Apple software may be exactly how it wants to position itself in the automotive world, while the likes of Google chase wider appeal with everyday autonomous cars.

As an example, Apple’s CarPlay software, which allows iOS apps to be integrated with a car’s infotainment unit, was first introduced in the Ferarri FF, a £200,000 luxury car equipped with a V12 engine; hardly a car for the masses.

Still with driverless car testing under way, and autonomous vehicle testing on UK motorways cleared for 2017, as well as the success of the Tesla electric cars, it would appear that there’s no time like the present for Apple to leap into a corporate bed with an automotive company.

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Roland Moore-Colyer

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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