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The biggest blind box of a new car continues to brew: the CEO of a company with a market value of 2 billion US dollars joins Apple


In 2021, Xiaomi and Baidu are determined to build cars, and OPPO, Byte, and Kuaishou outside the field are eager to try, but the biggest unknown is still – Apple car . The whole world is looking forward to Apple Cars, and the status quo of Apple Cars is: the core team changes frequently and the personnel flow is huge. At the end of last year, the top leader of Apple’s special project group SPG was replaced, and Apple’s head of AI and machine learning, John Giannandrea, took over. After entering 2021, another group of core personnel of SPG will leave. such as: Dave Scott, who originally led the automotive-related robotics team, went to Hyperfine, a medical device company; Jaime Waydo, who leads the self-driving car safety and supervision team, went to Cavnue, a car-road collaboration company; Benjamin Lyon, who helped Apple build an early car team, went to aerospace startup Astra. So far, Apple has not had any public product prototypes or clear product release plans. Recently, Apple Cars has recruited an industry superstar, the former CEO of the listed company Canoo, the hero of the original BMW i-series electric car, and the 30-year BMW veteran Ulrich Kranz. Apple officials have confirmed that Ulrich Kranz has joined the SPG project team as the core executive of Apple Cars. Ulrich Kranz’s last job was to co-found the American electric car startup Canoo, and led Canoo to go public in SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition) at the end of 2020. Canoo currently has a market value of more than $2 billion, and Kranz chose to leave after the company went public 4 months. Apple chose Ulrich Kranz because of his experience and abilities in at least two aspects: One is that Kranz is better than Vehicle chassis related technology He has worked in BMW for 30 years and has leadership experience in vehicle projects such as X5, Mini, and i series. During the development of the i series, Kranz led the team to do a lot of cutting-edge exploration in the lightweight of electric vehicles, especially BMW’s carbon fiber body technology, which was also highly praised by Apple CEO Cook. The second is that during the establishment of Canoo, Ulrich Kranz led the development of key electric vehicles. Modular vehicle platform and vehicle architecture . The model platform is the support for the series of products launched by the model. Volkswagen’s MEB and Geely’s SEA are both basic platforms built with heavy money. Apple clearly knows this. One of the purposes of introducing Ulrich Kranz is to build a model platform. Before this, there was an episode. In early 2020, there were media reports that Apple intends to acquire Canoo, but Canoo hopes to maintain independent development and can accept investment but refuse to be acquired. Until Canoo completed its listing at the end of last year, Apple naturally gave up the idea of ​​acquisition. But it still has an obsession with Canoo’s vehicle architecture technology, and now it seems that it is poaching away the leaders of Canoo who know the most about technology. Ulrich Kranz, who has extensive experience in vehicle platform, chassis technology, and vehicle research and development, comes to Apple, where smart systems, application ecology, and chip technology are very prosperous, and it is bound to have a wonderful chemical reaction. After entering Apple, Kranz will report to Doug Field, vice president of Apple SPG. Doug Field is a veteran from Apple. He used to be the vice president of hardware engineering for Mac. Later, he went to Tesla to develop the star model Model 3. He went around and went back to Apple SPG. Doug Field currently reports to John Giannandrea, the general manager of Apple’s SPG project. As one of the core technology leaders of Apple cars in the future, Ulrich Kranz’s experience is bound to be imprinted on Apple cars. Therefore, it is necessary for us to get to know Kranz and see what he can bring to Apple cars? 1 30 Years of BMW Merit: Who is Ulrich Kranz? Ulrich Kranz joined BMW’s chassis development department in 1986. In 1995, he went to BMW’s company in Spartanburg as the head of the chassis development department, and then became the project manager of the BMW X5. In 2002, he became the head of BMW Mini product series. In November 2007, he was appointed to lead the team of Project i. This series of experiences can be described as glamorous. After the establishment of the Project i plan, Ulrich Kranz led the team and pulled out a single team to officially start the development of pure electric vehicles. The team initially consisted of 24 people, and in 2010 it had grown to 180 people, mainly composed of people from the BMW Group’s structure, design, and marketing departments. The first electric car of the BMW i series is the i3, which was developed in 2007. At that time, there were very few players on the track, and Tesla was only three years old, and the first car had not yet been handed over. BMW was considered a very forward-looking electric vehicle research and development company. Ulrich Kranz took advantage of the opportunity to become the core person in charge of the BMW i3, known as the “father of i3.” He is also involved in the development of i8. The father of i8 is Bi Fukang, and is now the CEO of Faraday Future. The most prominent aspect of BMW’s electric vehicles is the lightweight design. The body structure of the BMW i3 uses a module called “LifeDrive”. The Life module is mainly the passenger compartment and is made of carbon fiber reinforced composite materials. The most obvious advantage of this lightweight material is to reduce the weight of the car, improve the anti-impact ability of the car body, and increase the luxury of the model. The disadvantage is that it is expensive. The cost of 1 kg of traditional steel is US$1, and the cost of 1 kg of carbon fiber is US$20. In addition to the carbon fiber reinforced composite material used on the roof, the i3’s outer periphery is all made of resin plastic. The Drive module includes batteries, motors, electric drive systems, and suspension, and is mounted on an all-aluminum chassis structure. Due to the addition of carbon fiber materials, the BMW i3 is 250-350 kg lighter than at the beginning of the design, and the curb weight is only 1224 kg. BMW has twice invested a total of US$300 million to build a carbon fiber factory, and mass-produced carbon fiber reinforced plastics and all-aluminum chassis on the i brand models. BMW’s lightweight design concept on electric vehicles has been widely continued. Tesla Model 3 and Weilai ES8 later began to adopt all-aluminum bodies. In fact, BMW’s electric cars are closely related to Apple: In 2014, Apple CEO Cook took a test drive of the BMW i8 outside Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. In August 2015, Cook visited BMW’s Leipzig plant, praised BMW’s innovation in carbon fiber bodywork, and explored the possibility of co-manufacturing Apple-branded cars. However, the two parties only had some cooperation on the car-machine system and CarPlay. Today, Apple Motors has brought Ulrich Kranz under his command, which can be said to bring his rich experience in the development of electric models such as i3 and i8 to Apple. In addition, Ulrich Kranz also has deep development and accumulation of the very key lightweight technology for electric vehicles. It remains to be seen whether these technical capabilities will be reflected in Apple cars in the future. Although BMW is playing high in electrification, it is actually very advanced and forward-looking in many technologies, but it does not have a particularly eye-catching performance on the consumer side. It is a typical representative of early and late events. The main reason is that the price of i3 is not cheap, and there is no bright spot in battery life and intelligence. The other is that the charging infrastructure was not perfect at that time, which led to a bad car experience. Data shows that from 2013 to 2018, the sales of BMW i3 have been flat, with global sales of 311, 16025, 24057, 25528, 31482 and 36829 respectively. At the same time, Tesla, which started in the same period, continued to introduce classic models such as Model S, Model X and Model 3. By 2019, the global sales of all Tesla models will exceed 360,000. At the time when the old and the new changed in 2016, the core team of the BMW i series left one after another. Ulrich Kranz and a group of BMW i R&D and design executives left BMW and invested in the embrace of new car forces. In addition to Ulrich Kranz, the former BMW i-series executives include: Benoit Jacob, former vice president of design of BMW Group and chief designer of i series, Henrik Wenders, former product management manager of BMW i series, and Bi Fukang, former vice president of BMW engineering all went to Byton; Former BMW CFO Stefan Krause, later joined Faraday Future as CFO, founded Canoo, and later ran away; Richard Kim, the original designer of BMW i3 and i8, later joined Faraday Future as the chief designer, and currently serves as Canoo’s vice president of design. Dirk Abendroth, former head of BMW’s i-Powertrain department, later joined Byton to be responsible for the powertrain and automated driving business. He is currently the CTO of Continental’s automotive business. The BMW i-series electric vehicle team can be called the “Whampoa Military Academy” in the early days of the global new car field. Counting from Ulrich Kranz leaving BMW at the end of 2016, he has worked at BMW for 30 years and is an experienced luxury car brand technical expert. After leaving BMW, Ulrich Kranz briefly joined FF founded by Jia Yueting as the CTO. He left 4 months later and founded EVELOZCITY with his former BMW colleague Stefan Krause. Kranz was the CTO. This company changed its name to Canoo in March 2019. It is worth noting that Canoo also had a team in China before. At that time, it also recruited SAIC veteran and former SAIC chief engineer Cheng Jinglei as its next chairman of China. In October 2019, Cheng Jinglei left Canoo. 2 Canoo’s car-making concept: The ultimate electric chassis, the ultimate space EVELOZCITY was established in December 2017 and the company changed its name to Canoo in March 2019. Canoo’s innovation in automobile development is to use electrified technology to carry out a new design of vehicles. It no longer strictly follows the “three compartment” concept-engine compartment, passenger compartment and luggage compartment, but flexibly designs the vehicle shape according to its functions. Canoo pays great attention to the space of the vehicle, so it does not pursue the streamline and the sense of technology when styling, but to maximize the interior space of the vehicle, so the vehicle as a whole looks “fat”. In addition, consumers can freely customize the exterior painting and internal equipment of Canoo vehicles, giving consumers the greatest sense of participation. As the CTO of Canoo, Ulrich Kranz’s greatest masterpiece is the “Patent for Skateboard Electric Vehicle Chassis Technology.” Canoo claims that this chassis is the first true steer-by-wire chassis on the market, and it is the flattest and lowest chassis in the industry-not only can it leave a room for the car Maximized space , Can also make The vehicle is highly modular , Increase the speed of new car development Meanwhile Reduce development costs . According to related reports, Canoo can develop a new car within 18 to 24 months based on their general-purpose chassis, while the traditional car manufacturer’s development cycle for a car is 3 to 5 years. Relying on this core technology, Canoo has also planned a series of model products for itself, including passenger cars, minibuses, freight models, pickup trucks and so on. Canoo initially planned two business models for itself: One is B2B market In addition to selling freight vehicles, Canoo also develops engineering contracting business. Based on Canoo’s R&D technology, it provides design, new car manufacturing, vehicle sales services, and most importantly, vehicle chassis technology authorization services for technology companies, OEMs and suppliers in the field of autonomous driving. For example, in early 2020, Canoo cooperated with Hyundai Motors of South Korea. The plan of the two parties is to create an electric vehicle chassis “suitable for autonomous driving and mass production” based on Canoo’s chassis technology, which will be provided to Hyundai and Kia under the group. Brand use. We later learned that this cooperation was stranded and did not continue. The second is B2C market , Canoo proposed a “subscription” business model. Consumers can apply for a subscription on Canoo’s APP, and after approval, they can pick up the car. After that, they can use the car normally only by paying a monthly fee, and can cancel the subscription at any time without deposit and other complicated procedures. This model was later cut off inside Canoo because it was too difficult to actually operate. There is also an episode in between, that is, in July and August 2019, Canoo’s founder and CEO Stefan Krause stepped down as CEO due to personal issues and left Canoo, while Ulrich Kranz was promoted from the position of CTO to CEO. On Christmas Eve of 2020, Canoo completed a reverse acquisition of Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp. IV, a SPAC company, and landed on Nasdaq. Before going public, Canoo investor Tony Aquila joined the company as executive chairman. Perhaps it was the intervention of management forces that made Kranz lose power, while Apple was poaching. In the end, Kranz chose to leave and join the Apple car team. As we mentioned earlier, Apple had contacted Canoo in the first half of 2020, because it was interested in its chassis-related technology and hoped to acquire it as a whole, but Canoo refused. On the other hand, Canoo and Hyundai reached a cooperation in February 2020, hoping to use Canoo’s chassis technology to build electric vehicle chassis for Hyundai and Kia. By 2021, some media revealed that Apple is negotiating with Hyundai Motors to co-produce Apple cars. Apple hopes to use Hyundai’s E-GMP modular platform to build electric models. But then there is no more. Judging from these rumors of cooperation and true and false, the tripartite relationship between Canoo, Hyundai Motor and Apple has become very complicated. But the end result is: Apple did not invest in Canoo, which went public on its own. The cooperation between Canoo and Hyundai Motor has gone bad. Apple Cars poached Canoo CEO Ulrich Kranz. We know that Apple has a lot of accumulation in intelligent systems, application ecology, chip design and other fields, and is also investing heavily in the research and development of autonomous driving systems. Now in Apple’s puzzle, there is still a gap in the most basic vehicle technology itself-vehicle architecture and Chassis technology. And now, the ending of the story is pointing in one direction: Apple cars are filling the most missing Vehicle architecture with Chassis technology . 3 The last jigsaw of Apple cars: Vehicle architecture and chassis technology Building a model platform is the basis for car building. The definition of the platform determines the upper limit of the model. At the same time, building a model platform requires a lot of time and a lot of money. Take the Geely SEA architecture as an example. The development of this architecture took about 4 years and an investment of 18 billion yuan (equivalent to US$2-30 billion); top platforms, such as Volkswagen’s MEB architecture, have an investment of up to US$7 billion. Apple cars have the same pursuit of efficiency. Apple urgently needs to create an excellent vehicle architecture and chassis for its own car products. With the addition of chassis expert Ulrich Kranz, it is very likely that Apple will develop its own architecture and chassis instead of using the existing mature platform. For Apple Cars, time is really tight. Next, let’s see how Ulrich Kranz leads the Apple car team to come up with a reliable vehicle architecture and chassis system in the shortest time. Of course, the quickest way is for Apple to acquire a platform architecture and then conduct secondary development, which will be more efficient. On the market, Foxconn is also building MIH, an electric vehicle platform. Zheng Xiancong, who was the executive vice president of Weilai Automobile, joined Foxconn last year as the CEO of the electric vehicle platform. His main task is to promote MIH to a larger market. And Apple Motors is also a very important potential customer for them. After all, the relationship between Foxconn and Apple is inseparable, so it is not ruled out that they will also cooperate in the automotive field. 4 Apple car is on the string Apple set up the “Project Titan” project internally in 2014, and it has been nearly 7 years, and now it is displayed as an SPG (Special Project Group) externally. Although Apple has never officially admitted that it will build a car, the outside world has already assumed that Apple will launch its own car products, because no matter from the scale of investment or the composition of the team, Apple SPG will not be limited to the autonomous driving system. Apple has hired a large number of executives from Tesla, Ford, FCA, GM and other car companies; it has also hired a large number of people from luxury car companies such as Bentley, Porsche, and Aston Martin, including Doug Field, the current executive vice president of Apple Cars. A meritorious figure of Tesla. Now Ulrich Kranz, a hero of BMW, has been recruited. In the past 7 years, Apple’s automotive business line has gradually gathered all-round talents in product definition and design, vehicle engineering, quality management, power battery technology, autonomous driving technology, in-vehicle infotainment and operating systems. At the same time, Apple is recruiting talents at high prices in the fields of AI and autonomous driving, and has deployed a fleet of hundreds of vehicles in California to conduct autonomous driving road tests. The current Apple SPG, with an annual investment of several billion US dollars and a core project team of more than 2,000 people, is ambitious. For the car-building team, this configuration is luxurious. In addition, Apple has successively announced a lot of patented technologies in the automotive field, and there are more than a thousand of them in rough statistics. These patents involve many software and hardware technologies such as autonomous driving, map navigation, positioning services, in-vehicle AR/VR, human-vehicle interaction, virtual rearview mirrors, smart doors, smart anti-collision beams, and smart seats. In addition, in terms of battery technology, Apple has accumulated many patents in the past few years, from the selection of anode, cathode, and electrode liquid materials, to battery production and manufacturing, to the thermal management system of the overall battery pack, and even iron-lithium batteries and solid-state batteries. Technology is all involved. In December 2020, according to Reuters, Apple developed a self-developed Single cell design (Monocell), all the cells can be directly integrated, thereby eliminating the waste of space between the cells of the traditional battery pack. In this way, in the same space, the battery capacity is increased, and a higher endurance can be achieved. Recently, news broke that Apple is discussing battery supply with CATL and BYD, but these are still inconclusive. These true and false news, to a certain extent, reflect that Apple is accelerating the pace of development, and a lot of substantive work has already begun, so it also leaves more clues to the outside world. Apple cars are already on the line. Of course, an Ulrich Kranz cannot decide the direction of Apple Cars, but his participation is definitely an important step in accelerating productization for Apple Cars. Trailer of “The Heart of Cars-Experts” On Thursday, June 24, Japan, 20:00-21:00, Li Lele, general manager of Desay SV Intelligent Driving Assistance Business Unit, will be a guest at the heart of the car