Apple Should Buy Rivian

Apple Should Buy Rivian

In the aftermath of Apple’s failed Titan project to make their own car, the even bigger problem for Apple is that auto industry is now actively shunning CarPlay, especially the next-gen, full dash CarPlay that now appears to be DOA. GM lead the way on this:

Apple no longer merely wanted to project a copy of iOS onto the infotainment screen; it wanted the iPhone to oversee the mission-critical cluster behind the steering wheel. This stuff was sacrosanct in Detroit. GM’s Wexler says the next-gen CarPlay, which GM learned of before the announcement, was a “major factor” in its ensuing decision to divorce Apple.

The automakers are eager to turn all new cars into rolling spyware hosts that steal and monetize everything you do and everywhere you go in the car. Next-gen CarPlay still exists, but the original list of over a dozen supporting brands is now over a year late and reduced to just Porsche and Aston Martin, who make enough off the initial sale of their high-end vehicles to (not yet) need to monetize the dash with their own crappy software.

The way I see it is that CarPlay is an OS that has no hardware to run on. Apple assumed the auto manufacturers would behave like hardware OEMs eager to license an out-of-house OS, but then exactly the opposite happened. What seemed impossible a year ago I now think is inevitable: CarPlay will be purposefully locked out of all new cars precisely because it offers some level of privacy to the driver. This in turn reduces the value proposition of the iPhone itself, something Apple simply cannot allow.

So with Titan dead, and CarPlay looking like BeOS, what is Apple to do? They should strategically partner or outright buy an EV maker and make next-gen CarPlay its main selling point centered around driver privacy and non-montization of your driving data. Apple could have done this with Tesla five years ago, but instead plowed billions into the failed Titan. So the best (only?) option today is Rivian. Great cars; made in the US; they just announced their midrange SUV (R2) and affordable city car (R3) that look very compelling; they need Capex to take those new models to the mass market; and Apple turns an appealing brand that currently does not support CarPlay at all into a prestige home for its software.

Apple already did this exact move in a market they were weak in with the Beats acquisition: a separate brand wholly owned by Apple whose products then gained deep integration with Apple’s operating systems.

Luckily there is a rumor of exactly this happening, though it’s pretty thinly sourced. Anyway, I would love to see such an announcement at WWDC. Apple can’t get locked out of every car made as the entire industry transitions to EVs. They need to do something big.

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