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Apple car rumours fuel Geneva debate

2015-03-02 10:11

DREAM OR REALITY: The Apple iCar may become a reality. Image: Youtube.

GENEVA, Switzerland - The main talking point at the Geneva auto show that will open on March 5 is likely to be a vehicle that may never be built: the Apple car.

The world's automakers will gather in the Swiss city to tout their latest minivans, city cars and sport utility vehicles against an uncertain market backdrop with growing signs of recovery in Europe offset by slowing demand in emerging markets.

But longer-term worries are also looming large. Reports that technology giant Apple may be building a car have established automakers who have spent 127 years refining the combustion engine wondering whether they are still in pole position to build the car of the future.


The growing use of computing power in vehicles and the ability of cars to connect to smartphones and other devices is providing technology companies and automakers with new business opportunities - but increasingly making them rivals.

Thilo Koslowski, vice-president for automotive at technology market research firm Gartner, believes there is now a race between automakers and tech companies to control the "brain" of next-generation vehicles. He explained: "Among the automakers there will be two camps: those who understand this space and those who give outside technology companies access to the centre stack of the vehicle.

"Those companies will emerge in the next five years."

The ability of software companies such as Apple and Google - the latter working on driverless cars -to innovate and create new revenue streams has spooked automakers; another factor intimidating car executives is Apple's size. With a market capitalisation of $750-billion, it's worth more than Daimler, Volkswagen, Renault , Peugeot, Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors put together.

Automakers haven't given up the fight and many are investing heavily to position themselves as high-tech companies. Daimler's chief executive Dieter Zetsche has said the race to build the car of the future is far from over and it's not yet clear what role technology companies will play.

"Google and the likes want to get involved, I don't think in the first place to build vehicles," he said. "We have to understand that and then to find our roles, to which extent they are complementary, to which extent we become dependent, to which extent we are competitors."


Daimler, the inventor of the modern motor car, is touting MercedesMe while rival BMW is pushing ConnectedDrive - services that give drivers access to live traffic updates, "infotainment" and even alert emergency services if a car's crash bags are activated.

Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn, underscoring the convergence between automakers and technology companies,  will appear at the telecom industry's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today (March 3 2015) before moving on to Geneva.

Also at the Geneva show will be Opel, the European arm of General Motors, to give its Opel OnStar connectivity service as much prominence as any of its cars.

Read more on:    apple  |  geneva  |  switzerland  |  new models

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