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By Shoko Oda and Sohee Kim
Speculation that Apple Inc. is seeking a partner to develop its own electric vehicle swept through South Korea and Japan, where shares of major car companies climbed on reports of discussions with the maker of the iPhone.
Kia Motors Corp. is talking to potential partners about a plan to assemble an Apple-designed car, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Separately, the Nikkei newspaper said Apple was in discussions with at least six automakers. Conjecture around Apple’s secretive project to design and sell its own car re-emerged in December after a hiatus of several years, with Kia’s part-owner Hyundai Motor Co. mentioned as a potential partner.
The key question is how serious Apple is about taking on Tesla Inc. and other electric-vehicle makers, and whether it has determined it will need an established manufacturer to be able to roll out its own product. The Cupertino, California-based company is said to have a small team of engineers developing drive systems, as well as designers, but with development work at an early stage, any rollout probably won’t happen for another five years.
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