Hyundai’s value surged by $9bn (£6.6bn) on Friday after reports that it could join with Apple in developing a driverless electric vehicle – despite confusion as it backtracked on a statement acknowledging “early discussion” with the iPhone manufacturer.
Investors sent the South Korean carmaker’s share price on the Seoul exchange up almost 20%, as local media reported a possible tie-up on electric cars and batteries with Apple, which has been developing its own vehicle technology.
Reports on South Korea’s Economic Daily claimed the two firms were in talks.
Hyundai originally issued a statement saying: “Apple and Hyundai are in discussion, but as it is early stage, nothing has been decided.”
A subsequent statement to the stock exchange from Hyundai omitted any reference to Apple, merely saying there were “requests for cooperation on joint development of autonomous electric vehicles from various companies”.
Last month it was reported that Apple was hoping to launch a self-driving personal vehicle by 2024, which, a source told Reuters, could represent an evolution in electric car battery technology in the way the iPhone evolved mobile phones. It was suggested that Apple could look for a traditional manufacturing partner to help make the car.
Apple did not comment on the Hyundai statement.
The scramble to invest in Hyundai comes after a year in which the share price of the market leader in electric vehicles, Tesla, has rocketed – to the extent that chief executive and major shareholder Elon Musk this week overtook Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man.
An Apple vehicle would have the design cachet to compete with the California company, which shipped almost 500,000 vehicles last year and has pushed the boundaries of autonomous driving as well as electric car technology.
Hyundai has been keen to burnish its credentials, last month announcing it would develop in-house its own electric car platform and battery systems, expecting to extend the range of a single charge to 500km.
It has also had an eye on more futuristic technologies, establishing a self-driving joint venture, Motional, with car component supplier Aptiv and ploughing $2bn into the new firm. Motional has announced plans with ride-hailing firm Lyft to launch robotaxis in the US from 2023. An investor in robotics firms, Hyundai in 2019 unveiled a concept “walking” robocar for tougher terrain.
Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about its product development plans but it has been reported to have been working on Project Titan, its electric and autonomous car vision, since 2014.