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Hyundai confirms talks with Apple on possible EV project

Share price jumps 20% as automaker stresses discussions are in 'early stage'

SEOUL -- Hyundai Motor shares surged nearly 20% on Friday after South Korea's biggest automaker confirmed -- but then later played down -- reports that it is in talks with Apple to develop self-driving electric vehicles.

"We've been receiving requests for potential cooperation from various companies regarding developing autonomous EVs. No decisions have been made as discussions are in early stages," Hyundai said in a regulatory filing.

The filing did not mention Apple or any other companies by name, but a report by Korea Economic Daily TV on Friday morning said Hyundai was in talks with the iPhone maker to jointly develop electric vehicles and batteries. The partnership is only waiting for the final nod from Hyundai Chairman Chung Euisun, the report said.

"Apple and Hyundai are in discussions, but as it is at an early stage, nothing has been decided," the automaker said in a statement. However subsequent comments from Hyundai said only that the U.S. company is talking to "a variety of global carmakers."

Hyundai told Nikkei Asia that it could not confirm anything but what was in the regulatory filing.

Hyundai's shares rose as much as 25% on Friday. Investor interest remained high even after Hyundai appeared to play down its initial statement, with its share price ending the day 19.4% higher. Group company Kia Motors' shares soared 14%, and parts maker Hyundai Mobis surged nearly 30%.

Apple has reportedly been working on developing its own EVs for years, though the company has not yet officially confirmed this. Analysts say the California-based tech company is gearing up for the project by hiring experts from automakers.

"Apple does not engage in [electronics] production directly, so it may take the same approach to autos," said Seo Sang-young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities. "But it is not clear yet which automaker will assemble the car."

Collaboration with Apple would be a shot in the arm for Hyundai's own EV ambitions, after the world's fifth-largest automaker developed a new EV platform with a driving range of over 500 km per charge. The platform will be used in models that go on sale this year, including its luxury Genesis brand, which Hyundai hopes to expand not only in South Korea and the U.S. but China and Europe as well.

Hyundai's EV shift is being spearheaded by Chairman Chung, who took the helm of the company in October 2020. The automaker aims to roll out 12 different EV models over the next five years and achieve annual unit sales of 560,000 by 2025.

Hyundai also plans to start mass-producing vehicles that run on solid-state batteries, which are widely seen as a technology that will revolutionize electric cars, in 2027. The company has been working on the technology in partnership with South Korean groups Samsung SDI and LG Chem.

Various Apple suppliers, meanwhile, have also been making forays into the EV sector. Key iPhone assembler Foxconn said on Jan. 4 it would help Chinese startup Byton produce its first electric vehicles, while Japanese iPhone parts supplier Murata told Nikkei that it intended to break into the auto business.

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