Apple is reportedly in talks to buy the high-performance car company McLaren, according to the Financial Times. The two firms have been talking for several months about plans to have Apple make a strategic investment in the McLaren Technology Group or buy it outright. Either way, it would gain access to McLaren’s vast expertise in the field of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum, as well as to the mechanical and automotive manufacturing knowledge.
Apple itself declined comment on the report. But McLaren issued a short statement.
“We can confirm that McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment,” a McLaren spokesman said. “As you would expect, the nature of our brand means we regularly have confidential conversations with a wide range of parties, but we keep them confidential.”
McLaren made roughly 1,700 vehicles last year, each with a retail value of up to $1 million US. But despite the hefty price tags, the company isn’t profitable. McLaren also owns an F1 racing team, and the entire company is valued at a little over $2 billion US.
A deal or partnership with McLaren would accelerate Apple’s car project, which the Cupertino, Calif., a company has never directly acknowledged. McLaren Automotive employs more than 1,000 people and pioneering carbon-fiber bodies for road cars. Its ultraluxury vehicles start at north of $180,000.
Not everyone is convinced that an Apple-McLaren partnership would be positive.
“I would rather they would stay away from McLarens,” said Rajiva Agrawal. He’s the CEO of the The Collector Car Fund, a group that invests in rare, collectible cars, including a McLaren. “Once you have somebody like Apple take them [McLaren] over, they’ll try to convert them into a Tesla,” Agrawal said.
“It’ll become a mass production car that loses its appeal to people like us.”
But Apple could be very attractive for McLaren, which has struggled to reach profitability. The British carmaker may be best known for its very high-end luxury supercars and its Formula One team, although it also has made forays into wearable technology, health care and electronics. It took the name McLaren Technology Group in 2015 to reflect its diversification strategy.
If Apple moves forward it will in some ways enter a crowded space as multiple tech firms, including Google, race to invent the smart, autonomous, highly-efficient vehicles of the future. The focus on technology could represent a good culture alignment for Apple and McLaren, although McLaren is a much smaller manufacturer when compared to Apple’s massive customer base. The firm said at the time of its renaming that it produces just a little more than 1,600 cars per year.