Why would Apple want to buy McLaren?

As recently as May, an article in Business Insider[1] reported that Apple would never make the grade in the automotive market without hiring respected leaders from the industry.

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, had previously made the headlines by belittling Apple’s staffing raids stating:

Important engineers? They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard’. If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.

Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla Motors

Apple Maclaren

Since Google announced its intention to enter the motor fray in early 2014, its efforts have been in the news fairly regularly as its autonomous prototypes have racked up minor collisions around its test sites in California. Apple is also believed to be developing a self-driving car and that might explain its $1bn investment in Uber rival, Didi Chuxing. Apple claimed the investment provided a gateway to the Chinese market where regulators have erected barriers to its products.[2] But this might be disingenuous or, at the very least, only a partial explanation; Didi scored a notable victory by driving Uber out of China in July, as Rockfire reported on 19 August. And Uber, like Tesla, is actively exploring self-driving technology. [3]

Tesla is the most disaster-prone player in the field at present but also the most transparent. It is developing long range batteries for its cars as fast as it is developing its driverless technology. It is dabbling with renewable sources of energy to replace the volatile lithium in existing batteries and has diversified into rockets and solar roofing. At heart, however, it remains a car company.[4]

Uber is a technology company that offers a service that could not exist without cars – or transport at any rate – but could operate without drivers. Apple is first and foremost a technology company and has, with Didi Chuxing, bought not only into China but also into the world where Uber operates.
Industry observers see the transition from information to cars as logical, given that technology is steadily subjugating mechanics as the manufacture of passenger vehicles evolves. If Apple is interested in McLaren, the lure could be its R&D department.

McLaren was the first company to construct a car around a carbon fibre monacoque and has won eight constructor’s titles not to mention 160 grand prix victories. Its Applied Technologies arm is renowned for field-leading developments in carbon fibre composites, aluminium alloys, simulators and computerised dashboards. If that were not enough, it is a model of diversity with a technical director who occupies 21st position in the Telegraph’s “Top 50 Women in Engineering” ranking, published in June.[5]
[1] Business Insider. This is why Tesla and Google are the future of cars – and Apple isn’t. 15 May 2016.

[2] Reuters. Apple invests $1bn in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing. 13 May 2016.

[3] Rockfire Capital Ltd. Uber leaves China, takes on India and enters the driverless vehicle race. 19 August 2016.

[4] Rockfire Capital Ltd. Battery improvements fuel Tesla’s future. 15 August 2016

[5] The Telegraph. Top 50 women in engineering. 23 June 2016.