Apple and Google Cars Aren’t a Threat


As technology giants Apple and Google edge toward the fast lane of carmaking, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of RenaultNissan, insisted that traditional automakers did not feel threatened.

Google has already set the industry abuzz with its electric, self-driving cars, and the market is filled with rumors of Apple following suit.

But speaking to CNBC at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ghosn said the auto business was not attractive to tech giants on the hunt for high profit margins.

“Unfortunately, it is not an extremely profitable industry,” he said. “It’s an industry that requires a lot of investment and unfortunately it doesn’t have so much high return. I would say the classical car industry is an area not very attractive for people in the high-tech who are making very interesting margins.”

Ghosn said he did not expect a Google — or even an Apple — vehicle to come to market any time soon.

Instead, he said Google’s move into the area was more to do with it getting in on the “technological evolution” of the car industry.

Tech companies like Microsoft and Intel are interested in cars “because they see it as a very important object, where quite a lot of technology can be put in,” he added.

Ghosn isn’t the only car company chief to watch Apple and the speculation surrounding it building a car with interest. Talking to CNBC at the Geneva Motor Show, in Switzerland, Ian Robertson, member of the board of management at BMW, said “I look at all competition equally, whether they’re new players or existing players.”

“One thing about BMW is we tend to not look over our shoulder, we tend to look to the future and we tend to shape our own future,” he said.

Discussing Apple as competition, Robertson said “the barriers of the past are maybe lower, as we go into the future, but at the same time, the car market is a very complicated one. There are some new players in the market that are making some headway. Let’s see what happens.”

“Electric cars are part of the future”

The launch of the Nissan LEAF in December 2010 marked the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, and Renault has since launched the Kangoo Z.E. and Fluence Z.E. In November 2014, the group sold its 200,000th electric vehicle.

Now, Ghosn said the company was “on track” to deliver an autonomous car by 2020.

“What we have promised is that automatic traffic-jam driving will come in 2016 … and by 2020, city driving,” he said, stressing that it would enable people to be “more in control of driving.”

BMW’s Robertson weighed in for the German automaker, saying they were dedicated to connectivity and safety when it comes to all their cars. “We don’t want our customers to have too much distraction whilst they’re driving.”

In terms of autonomous driving, Robertson added that there will be more advancement in semi-autonomous driving, however “it’s a good few years away.”



Reprinted by permission.

Image Credit: CC by atramos

About the author: Alexandra Gibbs

Alexandra Gibbs is a News Assistant for CNBC in London. She has been with CNBC since October 2014, as both an intern and freelance writer. Alex has previously worked for the BBC, Press Association and regional newspapers. She has a BA in English Literature from Swansea University and holds an MA in International Multimedia Journalism from Newcastle University.

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