A $21 Billion Wager on Who Will Build the Apple Car

If Apple Inc. is indeed seriously considering launching its own vehicle, as press reports suggest, then it will almost certainly decide to outsource, as it does with the iPhone. Apple designs the phone and its operating system but employs Foxconn to assemble components into a handset.

There’s at least one big contract manufacturer ready to take advantage of these seismic industry changes: Canada’s Magna International Inc. “If Apple is serious about building a car … Magna Steyr should build it,” says Evercore ISI analyst Chris McNally. Even if Apple doesn’t come knocking, the manufacturer is already advising tech groups and start-ups looking to enter the automotive business, and investors have taken notice. Magna’s shares have almost trebled since March, giving it a $21 billion market value.

For a great primer on Magna and its earlier car development work with Apple (those discussions didn’t ultimately go anywhere) do read this piece from 2016 by my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Alex Webb and Bloomberg News writers.

Magna is one of the world’s biggest car-parts suppliers, having generated nearly $40 billion of revenue in 2019 from products such as transmissions, vehicle cameras, mirrors and seating. The contract manufacturing subsidiary, Magna Steyr, is the really interesting piece. It builds niche premium vehicles at a factory in Graz, Austria, including the Mercedes G-Class 4×4, the electric Jaguar I-Pace and the BMW Z4 sportscar. Typically those companies choose to outsource the work, rather than retool or build a new production line, because the sales volumes are relatively small. In 2019 Magna assembled almost 160,000 vehicles – more than many carmakers produce — and generated $6.7 billion of revenue from these activities. Together with joint venture partner Beijing Automotive Group Co. (BAIC) it recently added another facility in China, which is capable of producing 180,000 vehicles yearly. A north American plant might be next.

Magna’s client roster already extends well beyond the traditional automakers. Henrik Fisker’s eponymous car venture, for one, went public in October after merging with a special purpose acquisition company. A…