Apple in talks with Korean suppliers for its first car – report

Apple may have ended talks with Hyundai to build its first electric vehicle, but it’s still looking to Korea for partners.

The Korea Times reports the American tech giant has been in “advanced meetings” with various Korean component manufacturers, including SK Group, Hanwha and LG Electronics, citing an industry source.

The Korean outlet reported earlier this year LG’s joint venture with Magna International, LG Magna e-Powertrain, was firming as the chosen manufacturer for the Apple car.

While Korean companies may build the car and various components, Apple could be looking to China for the batteries.

A report earlier this year from Reuters indicated Apple was in the early stages of talks with Chinese manufacturers BYD and CATL to source batteries.

CATL currently supplies batteries to Tesla.

The company is reportedly looking at using a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery as it’s less likely to overheat, minimising the risk of fire.

Some electric vehicles with Korean-built lithium-ion batteries, such as the Hyundai Kona Electric, have been subject to recalls recently due to potential fire risks. Korean battery manufacturers don’t produce LFP batteries.

LFP batteries are weaker in colder temperatures than lithium-ion batteries, however they’re typically cheaper.

Apple’s plans to partner with Chinese battery manufacturers could be derailed by the fractious relationship between the US and China, plus US President Joe Biden’s desire to bolster US manufacturing capacity.

Magna has previously confirmed it would build vehicles at a plant in North America if it were contracted to do so, while LG and SK Group’s battery arm, SK Innovation, are already operating or have plans to open battery-manufacturing facilities in the US.

Apple had been in talks with Hyundai Motor Group to have its car built at the Kia factory in the US state of Georgia, though plans fell through earlier in 2021.

Part of this was reportedly due to Hyundai’s desire to not be a mere supplier, but to instead be a strategic partner on a more equal footing.

Since then, Apple entered into talks with LG and Magna International and reportedly wants to reveal a prototype of its electric autonomous vehicle in 2024.

It’s been suggested the car will be low-volume at first as Apple is using the car to evaluate its potential in the market.

Various affiliates of LG Group such as LG Chem are already in Apple’s supply chain which the source says provides reassurance to Apple there won’t be any supply chain issues.

Magna currently manufactures components as well as whole vehicles for automakers through its subsidiary Magna Steyr, with the latter including models like the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace.

Previous reports have also indicated Apple wants to build its vehicle in North America with an established manufacturer so it can control the software and hardware that go into the vehicle.

LG Electronics recently announced it was discontinuing production of its smartphones, with investors calling for it to invest more heavily in the manufacturing of vehicle components.

The company has supplied electric motors and lithium-ion battery packs to companies such as General Motors, Hyundai and Tesla.

Apple is famously secretive about the development of its first car and has refused to comment publicly on the project.