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?
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.
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.