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Apple Is A 'Really Capable Partner,' Could Help Automakers Build Better Cars

Apple Is A 'Really Capable Partner,' Could Help Automakers Build Better Cars

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is rumored to be working on its own automobile, but it could take another route and help other automakers build better vehicles.

"One of the things that I think gets glossed over is that a lot of people describe Apple as a 'walled garden,'" Devin Liddell, principal brand strategist at Teague, told Benzinga. "Apple is actually a really capable partner. If you think about what Apple and Nike did, [they] teamed up to [create] no less than the largest running club in the world."

Liddell said that could assist a "forward-leaning carmaker" to bring a co-developed and co-branded automobile to market. He suggested that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU), which previously teamed up with Gucci for a special version of the Fiat 500, might be a good partner.

"If Fiat and Gucci team up to double the price point for that car, what would happen if Fiat and Apple teamed up?" Liddell questioned. "[They could] bring the best that Fiat has to offer and the best of what Apple has to offer and create the Fiat Apple Edition, something like that. Especially if it was paired with -- beyond the racing stripe, beyond the interior -- actual technology stuff from Apple."

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Liddell believes the value proposition would be "really, really clear" and said a "co-making scenario could be likely." He thinks an Apple car -- developed in-house or with a partner -- "will totally upend the category in a really interesting way, just like Tesla is already doing."

Brand Strength

Liddell was surprised that the Fiat/Gucci partnership did not inspire other special edition vehicles.

"You could look at the markup that Fiat gets for the Gucci edition and logically expect that every other carmaker would join the gravy train," he said. "[For example], there would suddenly be the Ford Louis Vuitton edition, [and] we would just see an endless parade of them because clearly consumers want them. And yet we don't [see them]."

For better or worse, automakers could be the ones to blame.

"[It's] more and more evident [that] your brand strength is a reflection of how capable you are as a partner," said Liddell. "Are you an awesome brand to partner with? And if you are not, you have a less compelling brand than those who do. So even an Apple, who seems like a lone gunslinger on the surface, is again a really capable partner. Fiat is a capable partner."

Liddell said that partnerships are important because it allows companies to infuse new ideas.

"It's hard to come up with new ideas [from the] inside," he concluded. "The best place to get new ideas is from the outside. But if you are not bringing in partners to bring those ideas to you, you're without 'em."

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.

Posted-In: Apple Car Devin Liddell Fiat Ford gucciTop Stories Exclusives Tech Best of Benzinga


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