Even with all of the ongoing discussion concerning the persistent rumors about an autonomous electric car from Apple, the question of why exactly the company might choose to release such a product has perhaps not been explored enough.
After all, the move from being a smartphone (and computer… I know) manufacturer to a car manufacturer is quite an unintuitive one. Granted, there do seem to be some unavoidable changes coming to the auto industry over the next decade or so, and that does always seem to draw the sharks. But that’s not enough of an explanation.
In an interesting new piece, the former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassee provides some possible insight into Apple’s motives.
Here’s more via the Motley Fool:
Not all major publicly traded auto manufacturers have net margins below 5%. Toyota, as Gassee notes, has recently beefed up its net margin to 10% — still far from Apple’s 23% net margin, of course. But Gassee believes that Apple could find ways to defy industry norms, just as it did in the MP3 player market with the iPod.
To remedy margins, Gassee suggests Apple could opt for a single-model approach, limiting its product portfolio as it has with iPhone. Another possible path to higher margins for autos? Simpler design.
Gassee explains: “Take a look at any automaker’s website and you’ll see a similarly convoluted product line with logic puzzle options and configurations. It smells like Product Management — or, simply, Management — run amok.”
Finally, Gassee proposes that Apple could use its cash hoard to “offer attractive terms to suppliers.” Citing a recent study by Accenture that found consumers “value in-car technology more than driving performance,” Gassee makes the case that the auto industry’s poor job with technological UI highlights a key opportunity for Apple. “An Apple Car UI could easily score points compared to Ford’s Sync UI or GM’s (recently improved) Cue,” the former executive points out.
Interesting points. Those are all apparent weak points in current industry standards — as, of course, the slow switchover to electric (and autonomous) vehicles is….
Gassee also noted that despite journalist “worries,” there’s not likely to be any issue with charging station availability by the time of a possible Apple car release.
“There are sharp minds in Cupertino at work on the problem, and you can guess what I hope their answer will be. But there are no warranties expressed or implied: Exciting as they are, Apple Car rumors don’t obligate the company to a vehicle, in 2019, or at any other date.”
Not an obligation, sure, but still a tempting idea I’d say.