CUPERTINO, Calif., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Apple, Inc. may take a bite out of the automotive industry sooner than anyone expected, Bloomberg reported Friday.
Last week, it was reported the device-maker was considering a foray into automobiles to challenge General Motors and Tesla in the electric car market. Friday, Bloomberg cited sources with inside knowledge as saying an Apple car could begin production as soon as 2020.
If true, the report indicates an aggressive move into the auto industry by a company that has never built a vehicle before -- but has $178 billion in cash on hand and routinely looks for new avenues to spend it.
Apple, the Bloomberg report said, spent more than $6 billion in the last year alone on research and development and CEO Tim Cook is encouraging the company to explore new ways to enhance users' digital lives.
"Apple is looking to diversify their product," Bloomberg analyst Jeff Green said Friday. "Google is already in this space. You have Tesla, which is seen more as a Silicon Valley company than an automaker, already there. It's kind of a wide open space for whoever has the best idea."
Apple would take on GM and Tesla in the electric car arena, both of which are reportedly planning to launch electric cars in 2017 that can travel more than 200 miles on a single charge and enter the market under the $40,000 price point. Tesla is actually hoping to price its highly-anticipated Model 3 closer to $30,000, and analysts expect Chevrolet to price its Bolt even lower than that.
Other automakers, like BMW and Nissan, already produce fully electric plug-in vehicles in the rapidly growing EV market. Google is also making an attempt in the auto business, in December unveiling a prototype vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel that drives itself.
Apple has roughly 200 people working on its automotive research team and ramped up hiring in the last few months to meet this new challenge. There has also been a hiring war between Apple and Tesla, whose CEO told Bloomberg earlier this month that Apple has been trying to hire away some of his experts -- offering a $250,000 signing bonus and a 60 percent bump in their Tesla salaries.
Apple, which posted a record $18 billion profit last quarter, doesn't seem to create niche markets as much as it revolutionizes them. The California-based tech giant helped expand the scope of the digital music marketplace in 2001 with its introduction of the iPod, and did the same for smartphones with the first iPhone in 2007.