Apple in Talks to Acquire Supercar Maker McLaren: Report

Apple is also reportedly interested in buying electric motorbike company Lit Motors, according to other reports.

McLaren, Apple, Project Titan, electric cars, autonomous cars, self-driving cars, Lit Motors

Continuing to map out its direction in the electric vehicle industry, Apple reportedly has been in acquisition talks with luxury supercar maker McLaren Technology Group and with San Francisco electric motorbike startup Lit Motors.

The talks between McLaren and Apple were reported Sept. 21 by The (London) Financial Times, which said the companies have been discussing the possible acquisition of McLaren for several months, based on interviews with three unnamed people who are familiar with the discussions.

Apple initiated the talks as part of its ongoing efforts to enter the electric auto market, the article reported. McLaren has been working on electric vehicle development for more than two years. "A tie-up with McLaren, whose expertise ranges from automotive engineering and on-board computer systems to novel chassis materials, such as carbon fiber and aluminum, could accelerate Apple's secretive automotive project," according to the report.

The McLaren talks come at an interesting time for Apple, which recently began a "reboot" of its Project Titan electric vehicle program, according to a Sept. 12 eWEEK report. Apple reportedly laid off dozens of employees and shuttered parts of the project, as executives decide how to proceed. Apple has never publicly acknowledged its self-driving car initiative, but its hiring of a wide range of automotive industry professionals over the last few years has spoken volumes. Project Titan is initially seen as an electric vehicle program but will also reportedly have an autonomous car component as well.

A separate Sept. 21 report by The New York Times said Apple is also in talks to acquire Lit Motors, which has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle. The report, which is based on anonymous sources, said Apple already employs several former Lit Motors engineers.

Apple declined to comment on both acquisition rumors when contacted by eWEEK on Sept. 22. "We never really comment on rumors or speculation like this," a spokesman wrote in an email reply to an inquiry.

The Financial Times report said that the McLaren talks could be in limbo because of Apple's recent layoffs in its automotive division, according to its sources. McLaren told the paper that it is "not in discussion with Apple about any potential investment."

McLaren is valued at $1.3 billion to $1.9 billion, the article reported. In May, Apple invested $1 billion in China's DiDi Chuxing ride-sharing service, a competitor to Uber, according to an earlier eWEEK story.

Earlier this year, Steve Zadesky, who was brought in by Apple to head Project Titan, left the company, citing personal reasons. Apple then brought in Bob Mansfield—another previously retired executive—to replace Zadesky and oversee a strategy shift.

In the self-driving car space, Apple would face competition from old and new competitors.

Google parent company Alphabet has been trialing cars for years, while Tesla introduced Autopilot software in late 2014—which was involved in a fatal crash; Tesla recently announced an update to its software.

Uber has ambitious plans, and in August it acquired Otto—a company that makes self-driving modification kits for trucks—along with its intellectual property and development team.

Also in on the action are traditional automakers such as Ford, General Motors and Volvo—which has a software deal with Microsoft as well as Uber.