With no specific lead on autonomy or battery technology, Apple will have to rely on the same marriage between design and proprietary software that make its phones so profitable.
“That will be the distinctive value proposition for the car. The question will ultimately be: Is that distinctive enough for Apple to launch the car?” Sacconaghi said.
The analysts didn’t foresee Apple having any trouble distributing its cars given it could leverage its 500-store global network, which is larger than Tesla’s at about 300 stores.
Manufacturing is considered a bigger problem by Bernstein. Apple is reportedly looking at a contract arrangement with an established automaker, but finding a partner has proved elusive.
“It would need to be someone with manufacturing capabilities in the U.S., China and Europe because cars are not easy to ship around [the world],” Ellinghorst said.
He also said there would need to be “no or very few conflicts of brand equity and segment positioning,” suggesting a mass-market automaker. A contract manufacturer such as Magna Steyr would likely be too small, he said.
An alternative was partnership, with Ellinghorst suggesting BMW. However, Apple’s desire to control its ecosystem could make that option “highly unlikely,” Sacconaghi said.