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Fiat CEO claims Apple is planning a move into automotive market

If it wasn't already obvious enough, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has confirmed Apple’s interest in the automotive industry, but did not add any additional details.

Marchionne has been on a visit to California, meeting with Tesla Motors, Google and Apple. The former two are both embedded in the automotive industry, Tesla directly with the Model S electric car and Google indirectly with the self-driving car platform.

Apple does have its CarPlay platform, but we doubt the Fiat chief needed to personally visit Apple’s HQ to check out the dashboard system. It seems more likely Apple is looking for a partnership with Fiat, one of the largest car manufacturers in the world.

We still don’t know Apple’s distribution and manufacturing options for its electric car project. Unlike Tesla’s own stores, we suspect Apple will be more open to dealerships and third-party factories, to lower the overhead.

Apple plans to make the car fully electric and offer autonomous features, similar to the Google self-driving car. It has been testing the electric car at a new secret facility, focused primarily on the design and software going inside the car.

There have been rumours Apple is planning to acquire Tesla Motors, but Elon Musk doesn’t want his company to get bought by Cupertino. That might force Apple to make its own product, instead of utilising a well known brand, like it did with the Beats acquisition for audio supremacy.

The electric car is not coming for a few years, meaning these meetings with Apple are very preliminary. Apple’s target launch date is 2020, giving them five years to work on the electric car and make sure every part is right.

By that time, General Motors, Ford and other manufacturers will have electric and self-driving options on the road, meaning Apple will not be entering a new market like it usually does with consumer products.

It is also not like the car market is declining, in fact sedans, SUVs and sports cars are on the rise. Apple will need to compete against companies connected with Google’s self-driving ambitions, and capable of using Tesla’s open patents to create electric cars (opens in new tab).

David has been a technology journalist for over six years, covering a wide range of sectors. He currently researches apps, app sectors and app markets for Business of Apps, and has written for ITProPortal, RTInsights, ReadWrite, and Digital Trends.