Almost like clockwork, every year for the past few years, a new report has surfaced that Apple Inc, the world’s largest company, is about to enter the car business. In January, shares of Korean auto giant Hyundai Motors surged 28% over two days when reports first emerged the iPhone maker was about to pick it as its electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing partner. The Georgia plant currently produces Hyundai cars as well as those of its affiliate, Kia Motors. Weeks later, Hyundai said it was no longer in negotiations with Apple to manufacture EVs. Last year, there were reports of Apple making a breakthrough in EV batteries that would give it a huge leg up over competitors. Every few months, there are reports of another senior Tesla Inc or Google engineer with EV or autonomous driving expertise joining Apple.

To be sure, market chatter about Apple Car is almost as old as the iconic smartphone itself. Reports of an “iPhone on Wheels” surfaced as early as 2014. Six years ago, news of Apple hiring hundreds of engineers for “Project Titan”, as its secret plan to build an autonomous electric car was called, emerged. Last week, a Bloomberg journalist helped put the iCar rumours on steroids, suggesting in a news story that Apple was pushing for a “full self-driving system” targeting a launch in four years. Earlier reports had Apple initially making an EV and then building an autonomous vehicle.

The latest round of iCar chattering came in the wake of EV mania on Wall Street. EV pioneer Tesla last month became a trillion-dollar firm. It is now the sixth most valuable company on earth. Earlier this month, Rivian Automotive, which has yet to sell a single car, listed on Nasdaq and within days its market value surged to over US$170 billion ($232.3 billion). The stock has fallen 34% since. Other EV makers including Lucid Motors that recently delivered its first car and China’s XPeng Inc that reported stellar earnings last quarter have seen their stocks surge in recent weeks. XPeng’s backers include Alibaba Group Holdings and Qatar Investment Authority.

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