Quoted: Tony Fadell says he and Steve Jobs talked Apple car

“A car has batteries; it has a computer; it has a motor; and it has mechanical structure. If you look at an iPhone, it has all the same things. It even has a motor in it.”

Tony Fadell, the CEO of Nest who’s also known as a father of Apple’s iPod, says that in 2008 he and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs discussed the possibility of Apple making a car. In an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Emily Chang set to air Wednesday night, Fadell said he and Jobs “had a couple of walks” during which they talked about what kind of car Apple might build, how it might be powered, etc. And Bloomberg News notes that other Apple executives have mentioned car talk at the company previously, even before the iPhone’s 2007 release.

How might tech companies such as Apple fare in making cars? Auto industry veterans say curb your enthusiasm.

“I think, like so many Silicon Valley techies, that they believe they are smarter than the world’s automobile business, and that they will do it better,” Bob Lutz, a retired General Motors vice chairman, told the Associated Press recently. “No way.”

Google, whose longtime work on self-driving vehicles is well-known, has said it doesn’t want to build its own cars. As for Apple, it is said to be working on a self-driving electric car, but as my colleague Matt O’Brien wrote recently, it could just be working on a platform for such a thing, too. (It already has CarPlay, a system that allows for iPhone integration in cars.) Matt also talked to experts who are skeptical that Apple is actually making a car for the masses.

What about the Silicon Valley company that’s already making cars? Well, Tesla focuses on cars and batteries — not iPhones and Macs and Watches and cars. Tesla’s sales and deliveries rose in its most recent quarter but it continues to lose money, as Louis Hansen wrote yesterday.


Photo: Apple’s CarPlay system integrated in a Ferrari FF is shown during the press day at the 84th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, March 4, 2014. (Sandro Campardo/EPA)


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  • Rob Lewis

    An interesting parallel with airplane manufacturing, a field that tech entrepreneurs tend to be very interested in (many are pilots with their own planes).

    There’s a sort of arrogance that deludes successful tech entrepreneurs into thinking they’re so smart they can easily succeed where many others have failed. Small plane manufacturing startups have an almost 100% failure rate: the trajectory from brilliant idea to bankruptcy is sadly predictable.

    In the late 90s, Vern Raburn, who made a ton of money in software and was a huge aviation buff, decided he could reinvent bizjet manufacturing. Eclipse Aviation was the result. The company went down in flames in 2009, taking a good deal of his (and Bill Gates’) money with it.

    Building airplanes is tougher than it looks from the outside. I suspect building cars is, too.

    • Dan Andersen

      I think you’re right, Rob. However, the difference is that Apple has almost unimaginably huge financial resources to support its ambitions in this new market.

  • retiredinboyntonbeach

    Hmmn. 2007? Apple ‘car talk’ as early as 2007?
    When did Google’s car chatter begin?