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Tesla is the Apple of car world, now Apple wants its title back

Tesla is called the Apple of the car world, and now Apple wants its title back

brunch Updated: Mar 01, 2015 13:10 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times

You’ve listened to music on an Apple product, you’ve created documents and artwork on one too. You’ve stood in line at 12 at night to buy a phone with the famous bitten apple logo, you’ve used their tablets to FaceTime with your grandma. You’ve marvelled at how thin their Macbook Air line of notebooks is and you’re waiting with bated breath for the Apple Watch. Now it’s time for you to drive an Apple product.

Apple’s next venture
They may not make TV screens, they may get into the music system business and they surely won’t be conjuring up an Apple 3D printer – but an upcoming Apple Automobile is almost guaranteed. In the last few days, Apple has been poaching people from the electric car battery business and the automobile design business.

There are rumours that the Apple car division already has 200 people and that they’ve been at it for a while now. Also, some new patents and trademarks seem to be popping up from Apple that can only make sense in a car. So, let’s put it this way. If Apple isn’t going to make an Apple Car soon, they are really wasting a lot of serious time, effort, money and people.

Yet, to a lot of people, Apple making a car seems outlandish. With so many more things that they can get into in the consumer electronic space – why would they get into one of the toughest businesses in the world and a category they know nothing about? One word answer: Tesla!

Teslaing the auto world

Tesla has taken the traditional, conventional and very tightly controlled automobile business and blasted it to bits. They’ve done to the car world what Apple did to the portable music and smartphone world.

Market leader: Tesla created the first designed electric-battery-powered car.

Tesla has come into an industry that makes mincemeat of all newcomers, and flipped it around so dramatically that the shreds of flesh are now hanging on the other side. Tesla has come into a segment with a bang, dramatically improved it, made it beautiful, aspirational, consumer friendly and broken every rule of the game.

Exactly what Apple does too. Tesla is called the Apple of the car world, and now Apple wants its title back.

What Tesla does differently
Tesla created the first true electric-battery-powered car that people wanted. It didn’t look like a klunky nerd nightmare (take a look at the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius or the Chevy Volt – in the quest to make them futuristic looking, they ended up making them very weird and very ugly). Unlike the competition, Tesla cars could go upwards of 200 miles on a single charge (there’s a psychological stress term for electric cars which can only go short distances: ‘range anxiety’).

Tesla is the first company that sells its cars direct to customers, thus eliminating the middleman and the entire nexus of car dealers (many advantages to this – better pricing, one-on-one contact with the customer, fantastic education for the buyer and none of the malpractices that car dealers bring to the table).

Shockingly, Tesla operates their service centres as a non-profit part of the business (totally opposite of the industry norm, where car dealers make most of their profit overcharging on service and spare parts).

Tesla also picks up your car from your house when you need it serviced and the person who comes to pick it up drives in on a loaner Tesla car which he gives you to use while the car is at your own repair shop. Like I said, this is a company that has broken every rule of the automobile industry. And the traditional car companies hate Tesla for it.

The iCar cometh

So, what will Apple bring to the road that Tesla hasn’t? Actually they don’t need to bring anything very different. For Apple, it’s always been about timing and this is the perfect time.

A tech utopia: A car with incredible design, fantastic gadgetry and the first car iOS is just child’s play for Apple.

Apple doesn’t have to start from scratch, people are ready for a car from a non-traditional car maker, the technology is ready for the first 300-mile-range car for a price that makes sense for most buyers and the car is fast moving towards becoming a large electronic appliance rather than a mechanical beast.

An Apple car with incredible design, fantastic gadgetry inside, with the first car iOS that talks to all Apple products and has some nifty never-seen-before features would be child’s play for the world’s most cash rich company.

Tesla and a few other companies are already filing law suits against Apple for luring away critical people from them. A strong rumour that Apple is about to buy out one of the biggest traditional car manufacturers is also picking up steam. Thus, it seems the day may not be far away when you line up at 12 at night to pick up your first iCar.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, March 1
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First Published: Feb 27, 2015 19:07 IST