Apple held meetings with California EV startup Canoo in the first half of 2020 as part of the Silicon Valley giant’s secret effort to promote its own electric car project, three people familiar with the talks have said The edge. The two companies discussed options ranging from investment to a takeover, according to two of the population.
Canoes’ scalable electric vehicle platform or “skateboard” is pretty much what attracted Apple’s interest, people said. The platform differs from those developed by other startups and major car manufacturers because it integrates more of the car̵
Canoo was more interested in taking on an investment from Apple, two of the population said. Eventually, the conversations fell apart. Canoo has since become a listed company after merging with a blank check fund that was listed on NASDAQ in late 2020. Apple has made at least one other acquisition in the mobility field in recent years and acquired Drive.ai in 2019.
“Canoo does not comment openly on strategic discussions, relationships or partnerships unless deemed appropriate,” said Tony Aquila, Canoo’s CEO, in a statement to The edge. Apple declined to comment.
News of Apple’s interest in Canoo comes as Reuters reports that the technology company is negotiating with Hyundai to make a self-driving electric vehicle as early as 2024. Apple’s vehicle project codenamed “Project Titan” has changed several times over the years. But the company has now reportedly focused on manufacturing an autonomous electric vehicle and has held meetings with automakers as small as Canoo and as large as Hyundai, as it appears to outsource things like technical design and manufacturing.
Hyundai and Canoo previously announced a plan to develop electric vehicles in February 2020, although the project does not appear to be related to the start-up negotiations with Apple. Canoo refers to its partnership with Hyundai in recent applications to the Securities and Exchange Commission as an “engineering services agreement” that will see companies develop a platform to operate a “small segment electric vehicle.” But Canoo has not revealed whether it has been paid for the Hyundai deal or whether any work has begun.
Canoo was founded in late 2017 by a small group that split from the struggling EV startup Faraday Future, including several former BMW executives. As The edge first reported, the effort was funded by a Chinese investor who is the son-in-law of a former CCP leader and the family in charge of Taiwanese technology company TPK, which supplies touchscreen technology to Apple. Canoo plans to manufacture commercial electric vehicles such as vans or food vans as well as a consumer-focused van that is sold on a subscription basis. All Canoos vehicles are powered by the same scalable skateboard technology.
Negotiations with Apple came at a crucial time for Canoo, which lost $ 182.3 million in 2019 while working on its first prototype vehicle and went into 2020 with only $ 29 million in the bank, according to a recent application to Securities and Exchange Commission.
Canoo held meetings with a number of companies from Silicon Valley, China and elsewhere in 2019 and 2020, the people said. However, as offers could not be realized, the start-up needed short-term money. It borrowed $ 7 million from the government’s pandemic program to protect payslips, and as negotiations with Apple dragged on, an additional $ 15 million was raised from Pak Tam Li (the Chinese investor) and the Chiang family (TPK owners) in March 2020 according to SEC filing.
Canoo eventually started negotiations with the blank check fund, Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. IV, later in the year. It was one of the first start-ups to jump on the bandwagon of using a so-called “special purpose business firm” to re-establish the traditional way of being listed. When this deal was drafted, the Chiang family put an additional $ 80 million into the startup, and the upcoming chairman of the board invested $ 35 million, according to SEC filing. Canoo raised about $ 600 million when the deal was closed in late 2020.
While Canoo now has the money it sought in early 2020, it has not softened its ambitions to work with big companies like Apple. The startup said in the same SEC filing that it “is currently in discussions with several other blue-chip industry participants interested in leveraging Canoo’s technologies and technical expertise for their own commercial products.”