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Is Apple looking to buy McLaren?

In a strange twist in the Apple car story, reports suggest the tech giant is in talks with British car manufacturer McLaren over a potential acquisition.

That is according to a report in the Financial Times, which claims Apple approached McLaren Technology Group months ago. Three people ‘briefed on the negotiations’ said the talks could either end in a strategic investment or a takeover.

Assuming the story is true, it would signify Apple’s intention of getting into the automotive industry and would serve as the most concrete proof to date of a project it is said to have been working on for years. Until now, the most prominent clues have come in the form of hirings from Tesla and Mercedes-Benz.

Now it may seem a bizarre move, given that McLaren is relatively small fry compared with the likes of BMW, Ford and Mercedes. But the supercar maker has almost unparalleled expertise in the use of carbon fibre, aluminium, engines, design ─ cars like the P1 hypercar are low production but high tech.

Then there is the fact McLaren has an 80 per cent stake in the McLaren Formula One team, which may or may not factor into Apple’s plans, but it would be the perfect marketing platform to use when it comes to enticing petrolheads.

Neither Apple or McLaren, which changed its name to McLaren Technology Group in January 2016, have commented on the story.

Buying McLaren would certainly be one of Apple’s biggest acquisitions. McLaren produced 1,654 vehicles in 2015, earning it £450million in revenues but an overall loss of £22.6million, according to the most recently published results. It is thought the value could be between £1billion and £1.5billion.

Apple purchased Beats Electronics, known for its trendy headphones, for US$3billion (£2.3billion) back in 2014 and, more recently, invested US$1billion (£770,000) in Didi Chuxing – a Chinese Uber equivalent.

Arguably the most obvious acquisition for Apple would be Tesla, given its level of technology in the emerging electric car market and self-driving knowhow. Incidentally, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk once said the Apple car was ‘an open secret’ and he certainly knows his way around Silicon Valley.

It helps, too, that various bigwigs at Apple are into cars (got to spend those fortunes somehow), a prime example being Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller and his McLaren. And that reports say Apple just fired a lot of people on its so-called ‘Project Titan’ – jobs McLaren could fill instead.

Or (conspiracy tin foil time) maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with that expensive ruling, the current weakness of the pound and Brexit?

Whether the project will be for an actual car or the technologies used within them remains unclear. And without any official comment from Apple CEO Tim Cook, the uncertainty is set to continue.

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