Apple may partner with Kia in Georgia to make driverless car - report

Credit: Todd J. Van Emst

Credit: Todd J. Van Emst

Technology giant Apple is close to finalizing a deal with Hyundai to manufacture autonomous electric vehicles at Kia’s assembly plant in West Point, according to a media report.

The maker of iPhones would make Apple-branded vehicles of its own design at the Kia factory in Georgia through a contract manufacturing agreement, CNBC reported late Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

State officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said they were aware of the possibility of an Apple tie-up, but stressed the arrangements had not yet been finalized.

Rick Douglas, a West Point-based spokesman for Kia, declined to comment on Wednesday night. Marie Hodge Gordon, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, also did not respond.

Hyundai, the South Korean company that owns its namesake car brand and a minority stake in Kia, began talks with Apple last year about making driverless, electric vehicles through a contract-manufacturing arrangement, The Wall Street Journal reported in January.

Hyundai began an expansion of the Kia facility in Georgia last year to add about 700 new jobs.

Shares of Hyundai and Kia have soared on news of the potential Apple tie-up, according to news reports. Apple has said it hopes to start production as soon as 2024 on its driverless cars.

Manufacturing the so-called Apple Car could give Georgia a huge economic boost in cutting-edge technology.

Georgia is already becoming a center for electric vehicles, although not necessarily self-driving cars. SK Innovation, a South Korean company, is building a $2.6 billion plant near Commerce to make batteries for electric vehicles manufactured by Ford and Volkswagen.

The automotive industry contributes more than $3 billion a year to Georgia’s economy, according to the state Department of Economic Development. The Kia plant is by far Georgia’s biggest auto industry calling card, but the Peach State boasts more than 200 automotive companies, including the North American headquarters for Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and PSA Groupe.

Parts suppliers are scattered across the state, serving auto plants across the Southeast.