BMW and Apple have long cooperated on advanced technology. The German carmaker was the first in the world to incorporate iPod recognition into a car, more than 10 years ago.
And the BMW i3 battery-electric car is not only highly advanced technologically--with its carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body shell--but the most energy efficient vehicle sold in the U.S. today.
DON'T MISS: BMW i3: First Drive Of BMW's Radical New Electric Car (Oct 2013)
Now, according to the German business magazine Manager, it appears that Apple proposed to BMW that the i3--or parts of it--could form the basis of Apple's own supposed electric-car project.
Much remains shrouded in secrecy about whether or not Apple really intends to enter the automobile business.
And there's much dissension among analysts of both the auto and consumer electronics industries over whether this would be a smart move or downright destructive to Apple.
But in the story, published in the Manager issue dated July 24, the magazine writes that negotiations to use the BMW i3 body shell for an Apple "iCar" began last fall, but have since broken off.
CEO Tim Cook and other senior Apple executives visited the i3 assembly facility in Leipzig, Germany, during a fact-finding process and broader discussions over technology cooperation between the two companies.
The magazine's online summary of its own article gives few other details to that part of the story--and German is not our strong suit, so we're relying on Google Translate for this recap.
But the article also notes that new versions of the i3 and also the i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe, with its bird-wing doors, are now being discussed--though decisions on future derivatives aren't expected before the end of the year.
BMW is in the process of adding plug-in hybrid versions to all of its mainstream models, it notes, with the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive 40e the first to arrive in U.S. showrooms later this year.
Meanwhile, plug-in vehicles already represent a higher percentage of BMW's U.S. sales than they do for any other carmaker.
The Bavarian company is clearly dead serious about electrically-powered vehicles, and the ambition of the i3--despite a range that limits its U.S. sales--would have made it a logical partner for Apple.
That said, we could imagine why BMW might not want to help Apple in creating its own car brand, one that might well end up competing for the very same customers BMW hopes to attract.
Will Apple build an iCar, or won't it? The company may not yet have made that decision itself--but it's a story that promises to unfold over the coming years.
[hat tip: Anton Wahlman]