Just when we thought Apple Car was nothing but boring news put out by foundries, Apple has made another move. Sources pointed out that Apple has once again begun aggressively recruiting auto industry talent since May, including senior employees from Ford, Mercedes, and start-up Rivian on their headhunting list.
A few weeks ago, Desi Ujkashevic, a veteran of Ford Motor for more than 31 years, officially switched jobs to join Apple's long-rumored Apple Car team, giving us another reason to believe that Apple still has not given up on Apple Car and this is just a small step.
Apple's automotive team has been through ups and downs in the past year, the most obvious change being the departure of Doug Field. Field had been with Apple since 2008, jumped to Tesla in 2013, and returned to Apple in 2018. Doug Field, who left Apple last September to join Ford Motor, thinks he has a better chance at smartening Ford's existing cars than helping Apple spawn the "Next Big Thing."
He is also the fourth person in charge of the Apple car project to leave in the past six years, which shows how great the pressure is to undertake the most important development project in what was once the most valuable company in the world.
Now this task falls to Kevin Lynch. He is also a senior Apple veteran, responsible for the development of the software department and the Apple Watch. Of course, the Apple Watch is a very delicate and complex product but compared with a futuristic electric car, it is still no match. So as accomplished as Lynch is, he knows he needs more help.
▲Apple Car team leader and former head of Apple Watch, Kevin Lynch（Source：Apple）
But there is something more complicated in this world than developing an Apple electric car, which is to get a group of people to develop an Apple electric car. Since Kevin Lynch took office, his work project has been an endless cycle between recruiting and leaving employees.
He has recruited a large pool of talent from the automotive industry including Ujekashevic last week. In the past few months, the Apple Car team has brought in many employees with smart vehicle related experience from Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Rivian, Tesla, Volvo, and Waymo, obviously concentrated in AI-related fields.
However, on the other hand, the talent around him are also constantly being lost. The reasons are all-encompassing. Some people think that the Apple Car project has no future and some people think that conditions at other companies are more attractive. Ian Goodfellow left the Apple Car team last week, a well-known algorithm researcher in the artificial intelligence community. The reason for his departure was that he was dissatisfied with Apple's request for employees to return to the office.
It’s not hard to produce an electric car?
The continued difficulties experienced by Apple Car is reminiscent of what Elon Musk said, it is not difficult to make an electric car but it is difficult to make money from an electric car. Friends who have a little understanding of the automotive industry and the structure of electric vehicles have definitely heard similar statements. They believe that electric vehicles are simple in structure, possess low barriers to entry, and almost everyone can make them. The problem is that when certain conditions are added, difficulty skyrockets wildly.
It may be easy to make a car that runs on batteries and motors but it is not easy to make a car with a driving range of more than 400 kilometers and it is even more difficult to have a certain degree of automatic driving ability. The Apple Car has a natural advantage in that the market is extremely price-tolerant for Apple products and it is not hard to imagine a car that might have the same specs as a Tesla Model 3 but cost more than twice as much.
The key is not the price but the Apple Car and what unique "Apple value elements" should be paired with the Apple Car to make it attractive to the market. The current situation is different from the era of iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, because Apple was at the forefront of those products and debut them at a peak, while other companies had to catch up or detour. However, the electric car market is different from the smart car market. There is already a Tesla that has destroyed the traditional market. If Apple Car cannot make a product positioned to surpass Tesla in technology, it is doomed to fail. This is one of the reasons why the Apple Car has always been difficult to produce.
If the Apple Car team cannot find a suitable entry point, the probability of the entire project ultimately failing is still very high. Judging from the current situation of internal personnel changes, it may still be very challenging to see an Apple Car released in 2025.