Fantasy Land – Saab by Apple

Some of you might have read by now that Apple has a secret program named Project Titan to build an electric car. As a few curious photographers witnessed, they’ve leased Chrysler minivans driving all around Silicon Valley with advanced sensors. Several top auto industry personnel from Mercedes and Tesla have already been poached, not to mention visits by Apple executive visits to Austria– think Magna Steyr where they built all those 9-3 Convertibles. This may not mean Apple is 100% absolutely surely going to be coming out with a car, and even if they did it would be years away. They might just be investigating technologies that could end up in future personal electronics, or software interfaces for OEMs to integrate like their CarPlay system. But what if they were, and what if they could leapfrog ahead by aquiring the bankrupt assets of a certain automobile company in Sweden with a rich history of intelligent design and innovation, coupled with a huge factory capable of supplying the Euro Zone with 200,000 plus units?

appletestcar
One of the vans registered to Apple currently in testing around Silicon Valley.

Follow me here– what would an Apple car look like? Would people want a car designed by their computer company? I’ve seen it work in reverse, Porsche designed phones, but I don’t see the reverse ever truly working. The other silicon valley auto company producing electric cars, Tesla has made a name for themselves by launching an exclusive high end brand that is first and foremost about the core product, autos. While they might end up moving more into home power or grid power backup systems or other different fields, when you hear Tesla, you visualize a Model S. The same can’t be said for Apple.

Just like Mahindra sees the potential value in a prestigious brand with cache, Apple should see the advantages of acquiring such a dirt cheap and storied brand with such similar brand values. It wasn’t so long ago that Saab’s Global brand director Knut Simonsson told Autocar that they were trying to position themselves as the Apple of car brands. Before their demise, Saab was not about blending in, “We don’t want to be another Audi,” Simonsson said. In fact, Audi has been tying themselves to Google, not only through their MMI, but their self driving car experiments. Even if Apple wanted to start completely fresh with design and do something all new and different to what Saab had done before, just having the engineering chops, the crash facilities, the testing and state of the art production labs, the proximity to northern Sweden for winter testing, and most of all the bonafide legacy of well engineered Scandinavian design, it just makes sense.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tim Cook gave the greenlight to this project just within the last 13 months. Chances are Apple executives have even presented the idea of buying the bankrupt assets of Saab to him, and they’ve come up with reasons not to. But it’s not too late for Apple to stil pick up Saab, and for a lot less than they even paid for Beats. What they get has such enormous value to Project Titan that I can’t even comprehend why they wouldn’t try. Unlike Mahindra, we know Apple has plenty of free cash where it wouldn’t even dent their balance sheet to make the necessary investments to get the brand on sure footing. Not to mention, there’s plenty of unrepratriated money that Apple could use to buy Saab with in Sweden with less tax burden than shifting it around overseas. Even if they could manufacture the car in a US plant, chances are they’d also need production in other regions of the world, and Sweden would make a perfect spot for European production.

From apple prototype to Saab by Apple car.
From apple prototype to Saab by Apple car.

I know this is just a fantasy, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be on the top of Tim Cook’s agenda with Project Titan. Structured properly, this acquisition has so many synergies and advantages that would give Apple a turbo boost, no pun intended, into the auto industry. According to our sources at SU, NEVS had invested a great deal into electrification of Saab’s platforms. Apple could pick up where they left off, use the lessons learned and R&D spent, coupled with their huge corporate advantages, and deliver a product faster and with more credibility than going alone.

In the end, I just want to see Saab live on. I don’t care how it happens, the brand deserves investment and has tremendous potential for growth. How many of you out there who have moved on from Saab have noticed just how dull and sad the automotive landscape is? I’ve looked at BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Lexus. I’ve sampled the Chevrolets, Fords, and Toyotas. They all lack an ounce of the soul that my Saab had. I’ve settled on Jaguar, because they actually do have quite a story and honestly, they’re dead sexy. But my heart will always be aligned with Saab, just like my phone and computing device will always have an edible name. The chances of this ever being even picked up by a news outlet that would get enough resonance to make it in front of any Apple personnel to actually pitch it as a credible idea are .001%, so I’m not holding out any hope of this ever coming true, and neither should anyone else, but man does it make sense. Mattias, if you’re reading this, I’d call Apple right now and start making a case for it. If they only could seize this opportunity.

 

 

akzero
Member
1 year 7 months ago

What a great idea!
I’ve been an Apple fan since the beginning and have owned 10 Saabs! Around the time of the iPhone coming out, I always thought Saab and Apple had that “under dog” appeal.

Let’s hope this happens even if it is a pipe-dream.

p.s. I always settled with Jaguar.

Henrik B.
Member
1 year 7 months ago

What a terrible idea! An Apple var have absolutely nothing to do, with a Saab.

Cheers!

saabyurk
Member
1 year 7 months ago

+1

hans h
Member
1 year 7 months ago

What an interesting idea. 🙂

But whatever happens, I agree 100% with your last paragraph. Saab needs to live on.
I need Saab to live on.

Romac
Member
1 year 7 months ago

I guess it’s a good thing dreamin’s free! 😀
Not sure about the “dirt cheap” bit though. If SAAB are looking for long-term commitment and multiple models, that’s going to cost a pretty penny!
“We are many, we are (desperate for) Saab (to live on)”

Bernard
Member
1 year 7 months ago
Apple’s business model is based on cheap third-party manufacturing in countries where workers have no rights. Setting-up shop in Sweden is the exact opposite of that, so it’s a non-starter. An Apple car would be great for car jokes (like the old ones about “if Microsoft built cars”): If Apple built cars, the windshield would break constantly, and you would throw the car away once the battery wore out. Every few years, all existing Apple cars would become obsolete and unsupported. You would get two months’ notice that your “Car Pro” will stop working an will be replaced by “iCar”… Read more »
Mick E. Bice
Member
1 year 7 months ago

“Apple’s business model is based on cheap third-party manufacturing in countries where workers have no rights.”

Such a prospect would have the Victor Muller fanbois salivating in excitement, because as you may remember they wholeheartedly supported Muller’s attempts to sell Saab to the Chinese, and the consequence of Saab becoming Chinese-owned would have been Saabs made in a country (China) where workers have no rights.

Peter Gilbert
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Just this week there has been a lot of news how Tesla has to struggle in the years ahead. Here is an article on both Tesla and Apple.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/3-ways-apple-tesla-actually-155634303.html;_ylt=AwrTWfwbYt9UBHcAlObQtDMD

Angelo V.
Member
1 year 7 months ago

“We don’t want to be another Audi,” Simonsson said. Well, he got his wish.

Allan B
Member
1 year 7 months ago

A thought-provoking piece, Jeff.

Paul
Member
1 year 7 months ago

I’m not so sure they are interested in building a car. Tells has been poaching a lot of people from Apple because they have a deep interest in improving the software and electronics in their car. So is Apple, particularly with their carplay system. I think its more to do with that than apple building its own vehicle (and there are plenty of actors in the US that could build the car if they were working on one for cheap).

Gregg Eisenstein
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Apple has like US$180 BILLION in CASH!!! Daimler’s(Mercedes) current valuation in US$100 Billion…What would it take to restart SAAB into a global powerhouse with Apple’s marketing prowess? I believe it would be a great move into the 21 century and beyond! Long Live SAAB!

Frank F. Westwood
Member
1 year 7 months ago

A very interesting idea.
I don’t think Saab is / was like Apple but more like Blackberry.
Apple products are overpriced and very popular with snobs.
Blackberry used to be more of a professional device without al kinds of unneeded ‘spielerei’.
The new BB Pasport is a good example; different and in no way trendy.

Romac
Member
1 year 7 months ago

I’d matched Saab to Palm – great innovative products, chronically underfunded, bought out by big guy (hp) and unceremoniously ditched.
BTW I run a Saab and an HP Pre 3. My friends have warned me off brands they wish to continue using 😀

Frank F. Westwood
Member
1 year 7 months ago

I agree; Palm had great products!

Joe
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Aptly titled post

Romac
Member
1 year 7 months ago

+1 😉

Red J
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Jeff,
good one, but as expected it has started the OS flamewar once again.

When I see that fugly Google car I can only say that al those tech companies need the help of a real car company to build a car, the same way as the car companies need the help of a tech company to introduce to get all those so modern gadgets in the car.

Jesse Crandle
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Yeah, a Saab made by Apple would really bypass that whole Saab name issue. We could just call them “Saaples” and the logo could be a winged fire breathing apple.

Romac
Member
1 year 7 months ago

LOL – I was thinking more like “apple car”, but I like the “winged fire breathing apple” idea – definitely not a car for granny smith. Bluetooth steering & controls from your iPhone, iPad or apple watch. sit anywhere. one-piece alu monocoque. If somebody nicks it it locks them in and drives them to the nearest cop-shop… with fantasy, even the sky’s not the limit!

Paul
Member
1 year 7 months ago

More evidence they are not working on a car

http://www.mondaynote.com/2015/02/15/the-fantastic-apple-car/

Dan P
Member
1 year 7 months ago
Nice to see an article from you again, Jeff. My thoughts on any Apple pushes into automotive are that they will be purely technology-based. I can’t for the life of me imagine why they would want to go so off-campus and get into building cars. I’d guess they are interested in selling various pieces of technology to automakers. I think there will be interest in self-driving cars (for highways) and I’m sure they want to be on the nose when that happens. I’m also sure they would like to win the “integrated systems” battle, but appear to be lagging behind… Read more »
Bullnose
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Bang & Olufsen are looking for investment. As they are said to be the inspiration behind many Apple ideas and their products were favourites of Steve Jobs you would think Apple would ride to their rescue and get more into AV products. But there is no sign of that happening despite some wishful thinking at beoworld.org.
So I think there is even less chance of Apple involvement with Saab.
I’m an enthusiast for all three brands, but I am also a realist.

SVAB
Member
1 year 7 months ago
Apple is an example of a great consumer brand. Apple partners with other industry leading consumer brands. Bose (now beats), Canon, ect. These are companies make good products but they are made for the masses and make comprises for costs. Basically, give the public the most cost effective practical technology. B&O is definitely a connoisseur brand. It is expensive and designed for a specific market. Apple would ruin the brand. Wishing Apple would save SAAB is like wishing GM save SAAB. SAAB is not a car for the masses. Honda, VW or even BMW is more likely the auto partner… Read more »
Gregg Eisenstein
Member
1 year 7 months ago
Lets start with the difference between product driven consumer brands like SAAB, B&O, Bose and maybe up to the early 2000’s, Apple. Today, to make it in this world you need to be marketing driven! Hyundai for instance as well as Apple, Beats(which has nothing to do with Bose btw!) Blackberry makes some of the best product out there and is on the brink! And guess what, so does SAAB! The masses don’t understand engineering, design etc! They just want what somebody else has!! ALL of these purchases are done EMOTIONALLY!! People by BEATS headphones(again nothing to do with BOSE!)… Read more »
SVAB
Member
1 year 7 months ago

No S**t beats is not bose, apple use to have a strong partnership with bose but dropped them like a hot potato after it bought the next cool thing in consumer audio, which by the way is complete crap. They are both complete crap. So unless you want Saabs to be a big white box of a car that drives itself then have at it. But to me, that is not a SAAB and it might as well not exist.

Gregg Eisenstein
Member
1 year 7 months ago

Agreed, not a modern apple guy but have owned 9 Saabs and my family has owned them since the 60’s. I would certainly like to see the prosper and continue the heritage. 🙂

hughw
Member
1 year 7 months ago

New from the Wall Street Journal…
http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2015/02/17/how-serious-is-apple-about-competing-with-tesla/

there’s also some talk about apple buying tesla for $75 billion

Erik W
Member
1 year 7 months ago
Absolutely a thrilling idea. Big projects unfortunately tends to be heavily influenced by politics, external or internal. Not always does the best solution win. Nevertheless, some similarities can surely be found between Saab and Apple that NEVS can mention when they call Apple in order to raise interest. Like the fact that the Saab 9-X Air BioHybrid concept from 2008 and MacBook Air share the same name and aluminum look. The concept showed also the first example of smartphone connectivity as far as I remember. The narrow product range is another. The knowledge in re-newable energy might be another common… Read more »
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