A deal with McLaren would see Apple shift up a gear on car ambitions

British supercar maker McLaren may be denying that it is in talks with Apple about a potential tie-up, but the firm can’t deny that the idea actually makes some sense.

Apple has long been rumoured to be working on its own electric and autonomous car, under its secretive “Project Titan”, and a tie up with an auto firm or supplier was anyway something analysts had been speculating about for some time.

But on first inspection, McLaren’s products don’t seem such an obvious strategic fit for Apple’s car plans.

The company may be based in modest and unremarkable Woking, in south-east England, however its products are anything but. Even the most “basic” of McLaren’s cars – the 540C – starts at an eye-watering £125,000, even before being loaded with extras. It features a host of exotic technologies which you wouldn’t think would feature on an “iCar” designed for the mass market which Apple has targeted so successfully with it computers, iPods and iPhones.

A hybrid deal?

Nevertheless, linking up with McLaren could be a smart move for Apple, and indeed McLaren. The latter has great expertise in a range of areas such as design, engineering, electronic control systems and lightweight materials.

As media reports note, McLaren already has experience in electric vehicles. It is thought to be working on making electric drive trains lighter to make electric vehicles (EVs) more efficient; a technology Apple might find useful in its own EV development.

McLaren has a long and successful history in the Formula 1 motor racing championship. Its luxury vehicle business emerged out of more than 50 years of race experience. This background in the pursuit of speed and raw horsepower might appear not to chime with Apple’s aspirations, but it’s worth noting that modern F1 cars – including McLaren’s – are essentially hybrids with energy recovery systems.

More broadly, the cost and challenge of developing driverless or autonomous cars is driving partnerships and takeovers across the industry, including in the supply chain.

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