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Forget racing, this is what’s really driving Apple’s interest in McLaren

Published Sep 25th, 2016 9:00AM EDT
Apple Car Rumors
Image: Niels Epting

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With Apple still reportedly interested in entering the automotive space, a wild new rumor emerged earlier this week claiming that Apple was interested in acquiring McLaren Technology Group. The McLaren Technology Group, for those unfamiliar, widely known and respected for releasing insanely fast supercars and also for its Formula One racing team

While initial reports claimed that Apple was interested in acquiring the entirety of McLaren’s business, a McLaren spokesperson quickly reached out to various media outlets and denied that any full takeover talks had taken place.

Still, just because Apple may not be interested in a full takeover doesn’t mean that Apple doesn’t have its eye on certain aspects of McLaren’s business. To this point, Mike Butcher of TechCrunch posits an interesting theory, namely that Apple doesn’t want anything to do with McLaren Racing or Formula 1 but rather has its eye McLaren Applied Technologies.

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McLaren Applied Technologies is a technology consulting firm that applies some of the technological advancements gleaned from decades in the racing world to any number of scenarios.

“Twenty years at the forefront of motorsport have given us the technological platform to produce seamless end-to-end control systems,” the website boasts. “Hardware and software tailored to extreme environments across automotive, aerospace and transport. Our systems can’t afford to fail. So they don’t.”

Buchter notes that McLaren’s expertise over the years has been applied to industries as varied as healthcare, oil and even sports leagues.

MAT has gradually risen to prominence under the watchful eye of its leader Geoff McGrath, an engineer who started in the oil and gas industry, but has also worked in telecommunications. That relatively unique, cross-discipline, experience means McGrath has been able to build up an almost unrivalled team at the company’s HQ, ever so slightly hidden in the countryside, south-west of London.

The likelihood of Apple picking up the whole of McLaren and getting into motor racing is slim. Apple is more likely to want the incredible team and technologies developed inside MAT, while McLaren needs MAT to maintain its competitiveness in racing.

Even if a takeover isn’t in the works, Buchter raises the idea that Apple might very well be interested in a strategic investment with the company. Indeed, Apple has a long history of investing in cutting-edge companies without necessarily resorting to outright takeovers.

Personally, I can’t see an Apple Car hitting the road anytime before 2020, if at all. For a variety of reasons, it’s increasingly starting to look like Apple completely underestimated the challenges involved in developing and manufacturing a car from scratch.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that a New York Times report from this week relayed that Apple’s automotive team is in “disarray” and lacks a cohesive vision. And earlier this month, reports surfaced that Apple had laid off a large number of employees from its Project Titan team as the company’s car project had “struggled to make progress.”

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.