Apple car: Visit to BMW factory fuels further rumours of possible partnership

Exploratory talks between tech giant and world's largest manufacturer of luxury cars could be revived at later date, according to report

Rumours of a possible collaboration between Apple and BMW have been given a boost after details emerged of a visit by Apple executives to the German luxury car maker's factory in Leipzig.

During the visit executives from the technology company asked detailed questions about tooling and production, and BMW board members signalled their readiness to license parts, according to a Reuters report that quoted sources at BMW.

Although there are no plans at present for jointly developing a passenger vehicle, according to BMW, one of the sources quoted by Reuters said exploratory talks between senior managers may be revived at a later stage.

Rumours of a possible partnership that would see Apple using the body of BMW's 'i' vehicles as the basis for an Apple Car, have been circulating for months.

Last year Apple's CEO Tim Cook visited BMW's headquarters, but news of the Leipzig visit only emerged in Germany's Manager-Magazin last week.

According to the Reuters sources discussions between Apple and BMW ended inconclusively.

Apple appears to want to explore developing a passenger car on its own, while BMW is said to be cautious about sharing its manufacturing know-how as it wants to avoid becoming a mere supplier to a software or internet giant.

Since the Leipzig visit, there has been a reshuffle at the top of BMW, with Harald Krueger, appointed BMW Chief Executive in May, in favour of establishing his own team and his plans for BMW by year end, before engaging in new projects, a person familiar with his thinking told Reuters.

A further complication is the departure of Herbert Diess, the BMW's board member for development who played a leading role in initial discussions with Apple. He defected to Volkswagen in December.

Apple's car project is code-named 'Project Titan' but details remain a closely guarded secret.

Recent hires by Apple have also stoked the rumour mill. In July Doug Betts, a former senior vice-president at the Chrysler Group, joined Apple.

The company has also hired Paul Furgale, a researcher on autonomous vehicles, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

(Additional reporting by Reuters)

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