Porsche POAHY -0.60%

and Apple Inc.

AAPL 1.22%

held early discussions of potential joint projects, the general director of the sports car maker said on Friday.

Although Porsche CEO Oliver Bloom did not provide details of the talks, even when pressured, his comment during the German company’s annual press conference could revive long-held speculation about a possible Apple raid on the automotive sector.

Porsche executives traveled to the U.S. late last year to meet with Apple and other technology companies about potential collaborations, Mr Bloom said.

“We already have Apple CarPlay. We will expand on that, ”he said of the technology company’s software, which connects the iPhone to the dashboard of most new cars, adding,“ We’ve discussed a number of exciting projects with Apple. [executives]».

Parent company Porsche, Volkswagen AG

OATH 0.46%

is preparing to bring the unit to the public with a list later this year.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A meeting between Mr Bloom, Porsche chief financial officer Lutz Meschke and other Porsche board members with undisclosed Apple executives took place on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Motor Show in November, a man familiar with the situation said.

The man described the meeting as an opportunity to get to know each of the parties, adding that it did not involve discussing Apple’s own plans to produce cars and no talks.

“At the moment there is nothing concrete,” the man said. “It had nothing to do with the car. They talked about various digital projects. “

Car manufacturers and technology companies in recent years have been working closer and closer with the growing number of personal electronics and customers ’desires for cars that mimic the functions of their smartphones. However, each industry looked at the other with caution, unwilling to transfer control, still considering the potential for billions of dollars of new revenue from digital services.

Automotive companies struggled with software development, while technology companies stumbled, crossing cultural bridges in working with centuries-old manufacturers.

The carmaker’s rare admission of a top carmaker that talks are under way with a restrained iPhone maker is the latest turning point in Apple’s longstanding flirtation with the automotive industry.

Since 2014, the technology giant from Cupertino, California, has been exploring ways to go beyond CarPlay. Apple has researched designing its own car, say people familiar with the effort.

In 2020, he voiced potential manufacturing partners and suppliers who plan to start production as early as 2024, participants said.

In early 2021, Hyundai Motor Group in South Korea suggested it was exploring options with Apple before saying the talks had failed. Apple’s program received another blow later last year with the departure of key managers, including Doug Field, who stepped down to a senior position at Ford Motor Co.

As technology companies become a key part of the automotive industry, cars are more like giant computers on wheels. To understand why a tech giant like Apple might want to make a car, we built it from iPhone parts. Photo illustration: Alex Kuzoian / WSJ (Video from 05.04.21)

Write William Boston at william.boston@wsj.com and Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com

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