Mercedes CEO will worry about iCar when Apple worries about their phone

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Mercedes concept car from CES 2015. Photo: Mercedes
Mercedes concept car from CES 2015. Photo: Mercedes

Mercedes-Benz already lost a key employee to Apple’s project Titan, but Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche says he’s not losing any sleep thinking about Cupertino’s rumored self-driving car.

At the launch of the new Mercedes-AMG C63 sports sedan in Portugal last night, the Mercedes boss dismissed the threat an iCar could pose to established car manufacturers, saying Apple wouldn’t be worried about a Mercedes-Benz smartphone so his company is not worried about an Apple car.

“If there were a rumor that Mercedes or Daimler planned to start building smartphones then [Apple] would not be sleepless at night. And the same applies to me,” Zetsche told Motoring.com. “And this is full of respect for Apple. That is what I am saying.”

Daimler, which own Mercdes, has already lost Johann Jungwirth, who used to head up Mercedes’ R&D lab in Silicon Valley, to Apple. Jungwirth was given the title Director of Mac Systems Engineering, according to his Linkedin profile, but he’s actually working on the rumored Apple self-driving electric minivan project after spending the first 20 years of his career working on connected cars.

Zetsche told reporters he thinks Apple building a car is a bad idea. “I don’t find any rationale. Why (Apple) with this kind of margin would now go into this business? I think investors will hate it because they don’t like conglomerates, they want focussed management on what they understand,” Zetsche said.

“I don’t know their strategy and I do not know what they are doing, but I would be very surprised if that proved to be right.”

Rumors of Apple’s car project erupted over the last two weeks after vans rented by Apple were spotted around the United States with odd camera arrays on top. The cars were later found to be for mapping purposes, but rumors of Apple’s automotive project have continued to leak from sources like Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Apple obviously hasn’t and won’t comment on the rumored project that supposedly already involves more than 200 employees, with a tentative launch date slated for 2020.