It has been with a certain amount of humorous cynicism that I’ve watched the articles pour forth on Apple’s reported attempt to induce BMW into letting it purchase the rights to the i3. As purported in many of the articles, Apple is enamored with the technology of the i3 and they want it for an Apple automotive offering.
Could it be done – of course it could and Apple, thanks to the way the i3 is manufactured, could have a completely different skin on their iCar than the i3 does. The exterior panels on the i3 are cosmetic, not structural. Think of all the Fiero-ghinis that have been created and you understand how an Apple car can come with a unique exterior ‘look’.
But, in the words of Beatrice’s foil, “That’s not how it works, that’s not how any of this works!” Car companies don’t share their best technology with outsiders unless there is something very substantial in it for them. Look at how the Toyota, BMW deal works – Toyota gains access to BMW’s proprietary CFRP production processes and BMW gains access to Toyota’s proprietary hybrid technology. Both companies benefit and both companies products will benefit.
The question that has to be asked is what could Apple provide BMW in exchange for the i3 that would deliver a competitive edge to BMW. While the ‘Cult of Mac’ is the envy of any branding fanatic, beyond computer hardware/software where would Apple polish a car manufacturer’s product. Yes, app integration and the rest, but that’s going to happen regardless. Autonomous driving, well BMW has been working on that for some time and as far as we know Apple is new to the field.
I’m sorry, but it makes no sense for BMW to hand over the i3 to Apple so that they can fight over customers for the i3. However, what does make sense – and ties in with Apple’s great customer facing experience – is for BMW, working with Apple, to create an Apple edition i3. Selling for a premium, and with clever features heretofore unavailable, an Apple edition i3 makes a compelling case and with some clever mods to the skin you may be able to extend sales of the i3.