Hyundai, Kia deny reports they’re working with Apple on self-driving EV

Sohee Kim and Kyunghee Park

Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. reiterated that they aren’t in cooperation discussions with Apple Inc. to develop a self-driving electric vehicle, following reports and speculation that they were working together.

Hyundai and Kia have been discussing with multiple companies on self-driving electric car development, but no decision has been made, they said in regulatory filings Monday. Hyundai said the talks are in early stages. Hyundai shares fell as much as as 8.4% in Seoul, while Kia dropped 15.3%.

Apple Inc. paused discussions with Hyundai and Kia weeks ago about building an electric vehicle, people familiar with the matter said late last week. Apple has discussed similar plans with other auto manufacturers, they added, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Hyundai’s statement is almost identical to one it issued a month ago, after the company muddled its message around the highly anticipated Apple vehicle, first confirming local Korean media reports that it was in discussions with the tech giant, then revising its statement twice in a matter of hours. It finally said it had received requests for potential cooperation from a number of companies.

Apple’s plans for an electric vehicle are shrouded in secrecy but they’re been watched intensely. That’s because the car project has the potential to upend the automotive industry similar to how its iPhones, iPods and iPads have shaken up the consumer-electronics market. There are now millions of design-conscious shoppers globally devoted to the tech giant.

Investors sent shares in Hyundai up almost 20% on Jan. 8 and the weeks since have been peppered with speculation over which automaker Cupertino, California-based Apple may team up with. Earlier this month another report said Kia would be the recipient of a $3.6 billion investment from Apple to make EVs, sending its stock up 10%.

Days later, a report from Japan’s Nikkei newspaper said Apple is in talks with at least six automakers for the development of its EV while Dow Jones said Kia had approached potential partners about a plan to assemble Apple’s electric car in Georgia.

Like many big tech companies that are working on connected and intelligent mobility solutions, Apple likely needs to partner with an automobile manufacturer. Setting up a car plant can cost billions of dollars and take many years.

The past few months have seen a rash of tie-ups in that regard, from China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. forging collaboration pacts with Chinese search behemoth Baidu Inc. and Apple’s Taiwanese manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group, to Foxconn signing a manufacturing deal with Chinese EV startup Byton Ltd.

An Apple car would rival EVs from Tesla Inc. as well as offerings from upstarts like Nio Inc., Li Auto Inc. and Lucid Motors and established players such as Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG.

EV sales are booming in Europe, reaching a record high in 2020 and this year is expected to mark yet another period of growth, supported by a string of new models. China is already the world’s largest EV market, with deliveries rising almost 10% last year to 1.11 million units, China Passenger Car Association data showed last month.

BloombergNEF forecasts that adoption of EVs will accelerate in the 2030s, and by 2050, around 65% of all passenger-vehicle kilometers traveled will be electric. By 2050, EVs will account for 73% of all new car sales globally and there will be around 800 million passenger EVs on the roads out of a total passenger-vehicle fleet of 1.5 billion.

Hyundai has recently developed a new EV-dedicated platform, and plans to build 23 models on it, beginning with the Ioniq 5 in March in Europe and followed by a Kia marque later this year. EVs made on the platform will be able to charge up to 80% capacity in 18 minutes and add as much as 62 miles of driving range in just five. They’ll have a top range of 500 kilometers on a single charge.

Kia last month rebranded with a new, sleeker logo, scrapping its oval shaped badge and announcing a fresh slogan Movement that inspires’ to replace its older Power to surprise’ mantra.

“Kia’s new logo represents the company’s commitment to becoming an icon for change and innovation,” Chief Executive Officer Ho Sung Song said. “The automotive industry is experiencing a period of rapid transformation, and Kia is proactively shaping and adapting.”