Apple is reportedly in talks to buy British luxury carmaker and Formula One team McLaren

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Image: McLaren
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Apple has approached McLaren Technology Group, the company behind the McLaren Formula One racing team and some of the most expensive road cars in the world, about a potential acquisition, the Financial Times reported.

McLaren isn’t profitable, but the FT points out that the British company’s expertise in novel automotive materials, such as carbon-fiber and aluminum—a metal near and dear to Apple’s lead designer, Jony Ive—could provide the impetus Apple is looking for as it aims to develop a standout car.

Apple has been rumored to be working on some sort of vehicle—potentially a self-driving car, an electric car, or maybe even a minivan—since February 2015. It reportedly hired a number of automotive designers and engineers over the last year, and has a facility away from its Cupertino, California headquarters where it has been loudly testing its car technology. Then it was reported, recently, that Apple was letting go of a portion of its automotive staff, and has been searching for an automotive partner as it aims to build a product to rival the electric cars of companies like Elon Musk’s Tesla.

All the while, the traditionally tight-lipped Apple has given no real indication of its automotive plans. But the FT reports that the talks between Apple and McLaren started months ago.

McLaren makes cars that can cost upwards of $1 million. But it doesn’t make many of them. According to the FT, the company made a little over 1,600 cars last year.

The FT, citing three unnamed people briefed on the negotiations, says McLaren is likely to be valued at £1 billion to £1.5 billion ($1.3 billion to $1.9 billion), which would make it Apple’s largest acquisition since it purchased the headphone company Beats for $3.2 billion in 2014. Arguably, the purchase of Beats helped Apple acquire the expertise to build its own wireless headphones, the AirPods, which it debuted earlier this month. McLaren could similarly provide expertise to Apple, on a far grander scale, while still manufacturing its own line of products, as Beats continues to do.

Apple also recently invested $1 billion into Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-hailing company, as it looks to cut into its massive pile of cash that it can’t repatriate to the US without incurring heavy taxes.

McLaren officials weren’t immediately available to comment on the FT’s report, and Apple declined to comment.

Update 2:43 pm: The New York Times reports that Apple is also in talks with Lit Motors, a startup attempting to build an electric self-balancing motorcyle.