Insiders reveal what the Apple car could have looked like

Apple is said to have designed a VW ID. Buzz-style vehicle years before the German car giant did, among a range of proposed concepts for its now-defunct electric car.

A Volkswagen Kombi-inspired people mover created a year before the VW ID. Buzz concept was unveiled was among the designs considered for the cancelled Apple electric car, company insiders have revealed.

A report by Bloomberg from respected Apple-centric journalist Mark Gurman – who broke the story of the car’s axing – has revealed some of the design concepts planned for the Apple car since development began 10 years ago.

Apple is said to have invested up to $US10 billion over a decade in the car project, which was planned to be autonomous – with no steering wheel or pedals – but scaled back in a bid to keep it alive, before it was scrapped last month.

There were reportedly at least five concepts for the Apple car, including one which looked like the Volkswagen ID. Buzz even before the German car giant presented it as a concept in 2017.

Bloomberg and Gurman report one of the concepts – a people mover nicknamed the Bread Loaf – made the prototype stage and was demonstrated to top Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, in 2020 at a test track in Arizona.

It is described as a futuristic people mover with rounded edges, identical front and rear fascias “so it would always look like you were driving forward”, pure white paint, a glass roof, sliding doors, adjustable window tint, and black wheels wrapped in whitewall tyres.

The ‘Bread Loaf’ is said to have resembled the Lifestyle Vehicle from US electric-car start-up Canoo (pictured), and “looked like no other mass-produced vehicle,” according to Bloomberg.

Inside, there was space for four people in private jet-like seats which could convert from normal seats into recliners, or footrests – with the interior described as sitting in a “contoured bubble”.

The cabin design is said to have changed frequently over the project, though all concepts are said to have been minimalist – with ideas ranging from a large TV screen to show videos and FaceTime calls, to “iPad-sized displays suspended from the roof to access frequent controls.”

Other ideas proposed for the interiors included air conditioning that would blow air along the sides of the cabin – rather than in the passenger’s face – plus a “powerful” sound system, and microphones around the car that would project exterior noise into the interior, instead of opening the window.

Stainless steel, wood, and white fabric would have been used – as well as white exterior paint as the only choice – under the desires of former Apple design chief Jony Ive.

The Apple car was long intended to use Level 5 autonomous driving technology, without a steering wheel or pedals.

According to Bloomberg it was proposed a video game-esque controller, or iPhone app could be used for driving at low speeds “as a back-up”, or passengers could have an Apple command centre drive the car remotely if the car found itself somewhere it could not navigate.

Other concepts for the exterior design of the Apple car included “a modern reincarnation of the 1950s Volkswagen [Kombi],” which evolved into a version which “looked nearly identical to the 2017 Volkswagen ID Buzz prototype,” well before the ID. Buzz concept was unveiled.

Gurman speculates this may not be a coincidence, as some employees left Apple to join Volkswagen in the mid-2010s, before the ID. Buzz debuted in 2017.

A third variant of the Kombi-style design featured a more aggressive front end “like a wedge pointed downward”, before it was evolved into the Canoo-esque concept which impressed executives in 2020.

Apple also considered ditching the sliding doors for ‘gullwing’ doors similar to a Tesla Model X, in a fifth design concept which Bloomberg claims “featured a front and back with such dramatic pinched curves that there was little room for front or rear windows.”

The news outlet reports that when plans for ‘Level 5’ autonomous driving were scaled back, and a steering wheel and pedals were added back in, front and rear windows were needed to be added.

The final car concept – reportedly dubbed the I-Beam by some working on the project – had two forward-facing seats which could swivel, and it was considered to feature fold-out ramps for more easily loading cargo.

After a decade in development, in recent weeks it was reportedly deemed a “make-or-break point” for the project.

Bloomberg reports that when development of the Apple car commenced in 2014, it was mooted to come to showrooms in 2020, but delays and changes in course meant that by the end, it would not have come to fruition until 2028 – with far less advanced semi-autonomous driving software.

Apple had reportedly considered deals with Mercedes-Benz and Ford to help sell the car – and once considered buying Tesla and General Motors – but none of these proposals came to fruition.

Reports claim Apple was looking to price the vehicle from about $US100,000 – in line with a range-topping Mercedes-Benz S-Class – however board executives were reportedly concerned about how much profit the car would generate.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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