Those big Apple Car talks may have stalled

The Apple Car saga continues, with reports that the Cupertino firm's talks with Hyundai and Kia have been put on pause as the exact nature of the well-rumored electric vehicle remains unclear. The subject of long-standing speculation since word of the "Project Titan" group working inside Apple on car technology broke several years ago, Apple Car chatter accelerated over the past few months as details of the company's discussions with big name automakers emerged.

Initially, Project Titan's goal was said to be an autonomous electric vehicle which would be Apple branded. Subsequent rumors indicated those ambitions had been tempered somewhat, with Apple having more of a mind to slot in as a Tier 1 supplier, selling off its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and other digital dashboard tech to other car companies. More recent still, though, the talk of a full Apple-branded electric vehicle has reemerged.

Things looked like they were leaning even more in that direction in early January, when South Korean automaker Hyundai – which owns a majority stake in Kia – seemingly confirmed it was in talks with Apple. The company then backtracked on that. It also suggested that it was one of several automakers that Apple had been discussing the car project with.

The goal, it's believed, is for Apple to tap established automakers for their manufacturing infrastructure and their existing work on vehicles and, specifically, electrification. Building a car business from scratch is exceedingly difficult – as Tesla discovered when it first set out to create EVs – and more recent developments into standardized electric vehicle platforms open the door more broadly to automakers licensing out their tech to other companies, or even building their EVs for them. GM, for example, will use its new Ultium electric vehicle platform to build two Honda EVs for the North American market.

Now, Bloomberg reports, Apple's talks with Hyundai and Kia are seemingly on ice. According to a source familiar with the talks, discussions stopped recently.

Exactly why that might have happened is unclear, though Apple is said to have been "upset" by word of the talks being made public. It's also uncertain whether Apple's talks with other automakers have continued. Most of the big car firms have invested heavily in their own EV architectures, though not all may necessarily want to work with Apple.

Meanwhile, within Hyundai and Kia, there's supposedly some disagreement about the potential project too. For example, opinions differ as to which of the two should manufacture an Apple vehicle, it's suggested. Kia is currently the frontrunner, reportedly, and would be likely to build the vehicle at its West Point, Georgia plant. Currently it builds its Telluride SUV, Sorento crossover, and Optima sedan at the location, producing 340,000 vehicles a year both for North America and for export.

Hyundai recently unveiled its own EV architecture, dubbed E-GMP or Electric-Global Modular Platform, which Apple is seen as likely interested in using. That supports front, rear, or all-wheel drive configurations, along with fast charging that could see 0-80 percent added in as little as 18 minutes. Previous leaks have indicated Apple has developed new battery technology which could improve performance for electric vehicles.