North Carolinians were delighted late last month when Apple announced that it had selected Research Triangle Park as the place it would build a new campus – meaning roughly $1 billion in new investment and the creation of about 3,000 jobs.
While delighted, some people in the state – and in the world of technology as well – were surprised by the pick.
However, one theory now making the rounds in technology circles is that North Carolina was chosen because it would be the perfect place to design and develop the Apple Car.
Tim Stevens, the editor of CNET’s Roadshow – the CNET division dedicated to covering the automotive industry – suggested that Apple’s surprise choice of North Carolina could be because the company plans to develop a car at the site.
Stevens stated it may have been the NASCAR, the broad automotive talent base and extensive automotive resources in North Carolina that caused the world’s most successful company to come to the Tarheel state.
“For sure it’s going to take a lot of money to make it happen,” Stevens said of Apple building the long-rumored Apple Car, “and, if you were going to do it, North Carolina would be a pretty good place to do a lot of that engineering. There’s a lot of amazing engineering talent in the motorsports space around there.”
Stevens made his comments on the popular “This Week in Tech” podcast and live show on the TWIT Network while speaking with show host Leo Laporte.
Laporte said that, if Apple were using the new site to develop the Apple car, it would help explain the decision to choose North Carolina.
“Ahhh, I was wondering: Why North Carolina for a second headquarters?” Laporte said. “That seems an odd place. I mean, there’s a lot of talent in that area, but …”
“So, it’s cars,” Laporte added.
Earlier this year, several major news outlets reported that the ultra-tight-lipped Apple was in the final stages of negotiations with partners in the automotive industry about the company’s effort to build an electric car.
For years, there have been rumors that Apple at one time considered purchasing Tesla.
Apple’s April press release regarding the coming campus at Research Triangle Park stated the company will construct a campus “and engineering hub” in the Research Triangle area.
For years, North Carolina’s economic development officials have been selling the state a great place for automotive manufacturing. According to promotional literature from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, “North Carolina is home to over 260 unique automotive companies, including heavy duty truck, body and trailer, engine and transmission, seating and interior trim, and brake system manufacturing. Backed by this quickly expanding cluster of business, growth in the sector has surged 40 percent since 2010.”
The state’s Economic Development Partnership also points out that over a quarter of the top 100 global auto parts makers have a presence in North Carolina and the state’s “robust supplier network” is another reason the auto industry is thriving here.
The partnership also points out that North Carolina offers numerous programs, research centers and automotive manufacturing alliances that train workers in the fields of auto research, auto testing and the development of vehicle dynamics.
The partnership’s message to the automobile industry is this: “If you’re looking for a place to open shop, look no further than NC.”
Laporte stated on the show that it’s clear Apple wants another world-changing product in its lineup. The company’s iPhone, introduced in 2007, changed life as we know it.
“Apple is desperately trying to find the next big hit,” Laporte said.
Stevens said Apple seems committed to making a splash in the automobile industry. He said Apple has put in work before on some products and not followed through, but he added that, in the car space, “They are so much more motivated to make this happen one way or another.”
“So yeah, I think we are going to see something,” he said of a car product. “I still don’t know what it’s going to be – if they are actually going to manufacture cars or partner with someone to make it happen.”