Good morning. Today we are discussing hopes and dreams, and nothing embodies those fleeting things more than Apple’s attempt at making a vehicle. We’re also discussing how Ford is trying to get its dealers in line to sell EVs, the state of things at Stellantis, and so much more. Join me for a journey neither of us will ever forget.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Apple’s Project Titan Hits A Speed Bump, Again
Over the past few years, few endeavors in the automotive world have been as intriguing and elusive as Project Titan, Apple’s long-running and long-troubled attempt at making a car. What kind of car, you ask? Friend, that’s the problem. For a while now, no one at Apple has been quite able to agree on what the vehicle should even be. It’ll be electric; that’s the easy part. But should it be a consumer-focused car, like most of Apple’s products? Should it be a robo-taxi? Should it be some combination of the two? And most recently, word on the street was that the vehicle wouldn’t have a steering wheel or pedals at all—making it, presumably, almost entirely reliant on AI for driving.
Well, that idea just whiffed out the window, according to a scoop from Bloomberg, which says the car’s release has been pushed back one year to 2026. Also, forget not having a steering wheel. The new design will be “less ambitious” and should enjoy conventional controls. From the story:
The latest changes underscore the challenge Apple faces in pushing into an entirely new product category and taking on technological obstacles that have bedeviled some of the world’s biggest companies. The secretive project, underway for years, is meant to provide Apple with another major moneymaker, but it also could test the limits of the iPhone maker’s capabilities.
Apple currently plans to develop a vehicle that lets drivers conduct other tasks — say, watch a movie or play a game — on a freeway and be alerted with ample time to switch over to manual control if they reach city streets or encounter inclement weather. The company has discussed launching the feature in North America initially and then improving and expanding it over time.
The story also has a detail I hadn’t seen before, which is that Apple was targeting a price of around $120,000, but now it’s shooting for under $100,000. In other words, the current vision is a passenger luxury car possibly aimed at the Tesla Model S or X, or something from Mercedes.
The above situation, however, is reflective of how automakers and tech companies alike (increasingly, they are the same thing) are reckoning with the failed promise of autonomous driving. Remember how the computers were all supposed to take our keys by, like, 2019? Yeah, AI is nowhere near good enough for that yet, and it probably won’t be for decades.
But a better question, for now, is why Apple is even bothering with the incredibly complex, heavily regulated, internationally byzantine automotive market instead of just putting more of its technology into existing companies’ cars, as it does with CarPlay. I’ve yet to figure that one out.
Ford To Dealers: Drop Your Opposition To EVs
Interestingly, the majority of dealers — about 1,650 — chose the “Certified Elite” program, which requires investments of up to $1.2 million. Another 261 dealers chose the lesser “Certified” status, which means investments of up to $500,000.
But that latter designation also means these Ford dealers will only be authorized to sell 25 EVs per year; the “Elite” dealers will be allocated far more EVs. If the dealers don’t commit to anything? They’ll only be selling gasoline and hybrid cars, Ford executives have said, putting them potentially very behind the curve as the automaker plans big EV rollouts in the coming years.
Stellantis Is Feeding Its 14 Kids Just Fine, Thank You
This approach has breathed new life into brands such as Chrysler, which has been trudging along with a shallow product lineup in the U.S. and appeared to be in need of direction before the merger.
$100 Billion For America’s EV Battery Industry
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 passed by Congress could even the playing field between the U.S. and China on the EV battery development front, said Austin Devaney, chief commercial officer of Piedmont, North Carolina-based Piedmont Lithium during Monday’s Automotive News Congress in Detroit.
The legislation provides a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles that uses battery materials domestically extracted or processed.
A BMW-specific supplier alone, for example, is planning an $810 million battery plant in South Carolina. This is about to become a huge American industry, and it’s going to be fascinating to see where it goes in the coming years.
You’re hiking in the woods on a quiet Saturday morning after a demanding week at work. Suddenly, the ground starts shaking—an earthquake, and a violent one at that. As you lose your footing, you see a silver-haired man run up the hill behind you. He’s out of breath, but even that can’t mask the panic in his voice, and when you gaze at the mountain off in the distance you begin to understand why.
“My God, I’m too late,” the man says as red lightning bolts erupt from inside the mountain and fire into the sky. You ponder the impossibility of this sight even as you realize the man next to you is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.
“The Shadow Realm!” he screams, grabbing you by your Patagonia jacket. “I was too late! The seal is already broken. They’ll be here soon, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop them.” Before you can ask questions, the ground itself splits open. Tim Cook falls into the crevice. You grab his arm and try to pull him back from certain death, but he’s already slipping away from you.
“It’s fine!” the dangling Tim Cook screams, reaching into his pants pocket and pulling out a glowing crystal, which he gives to you with his free hand. “You have to carry on the work I started. You must use my powers to hold back the Shadow Realm. Also, you are now the CEO of Apple.”
“Guh?” you say, utterly baffled by this conversation, such as it is.
“The two situations are not related,” Cook tells you. “Just go with it. But you do need to figure out a car strategy for Apple.”
“I don’t understand,” you beg of Cook as he slips from your grasp. “Why does Apple even need to make a car? Why are you getting into that business at all?” But it’s to no avail; Cook falls into the abyss and you are left alone.
The crystal glows in your palm, telling you—almost instinctively, speaking to you inside your mind—what must be done. You must defeat the Shadow Realm. Also, you need to figure out what to do with Apple’s Project Titan.
(The two situations are not related.)
Reader: What do you do?
Photos: Apple, Ford, Stellantis, BMW