Which Automaker is Most Like Apple?
On Monday, Apple and Volvo made waves in the automotive world by announcing CarPlay, which is effectively iOS for your car’s touchscreen. It will be interesting to see how owners respond to this new system, and if it will proliferate to other automakers. But in the meantime, it got us thinking, which automaker is the most like Apple? It’s not as easy as you think. Volvo?
Sure, they were the first automaker lucky enough to pair with Apple, but it goes deeper than that. Both brands have had a minimalist-yet-upbeat aesthetic in the past, but are going for darker, more menacing looks now. Both have a reputation for their best attributes (user interface for Apple, and Safety for Volvo) that has grown well beyond their actual accomplishments.
RELATED: Apple CarPlay is an iOS for Future Volvos
But Volvo has not had the resources in recent years to create a comprehensive and easy-to use interface for its higher end models. Sure it has plenty of screens, but there is no method to the madness. Of course, Apple will get the system to be more like itself from a user-experience perspective, but we’re looking for the automaker that already has that feel.
At one point, this was a no-brainer. The two brands use nearly identical black-on-white branding for ads, and even some of its products look similar. The Volkswagen XL1 has a similar aesthetic to previous generation iPods, and there is the whole “We’re building a better-freaking-tomorrow” approach to many ads.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2013 Volkswagen XL1
Unfortunately, Volkswagen lost its cool factor some years ago. A Golf used to have the appeal of a new iPad, but its just not there anymore, and the brand has lost its mojo– something that apple is experiencing a little bit of, but not as bad as VW.
A brand with products that have a beloved following, in spite of their shortcomings? Well, now we’re on to something. The new 3 Series really is no longer the sum of its parts, yet people still flock to it. Why? Because of the brand equity based on past accomplishments. Add to that the fact that (like the XL1) the BMW i8 “hybrid supercar” has the look of an Apple product on wheels.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2014 BMW i8
The problem for BMW though, is that people have HATED its iDrive system and overall, BMW’s are not ergonomically sound enough to be likened to an iPad.
Were it not for the final brand, this brand would have been the shoe-in for “Apple product on wheels.” For most of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Audi products had the look of a car designed by the folks in Cupertino. Early A4s and TTs are perfect examples of this.
Audi has long branded itself as the “technology” carmaker, and has recently been at the forefront of technological advancements in the automotive world, such as clean diesel, performance-hybrids, and LED tech.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2010 Audi R8 5.2 V10
The hardest item to avoid with Audi has been its continued pursuit of the perfect interior layout. Audi interiors are so intuitive it's stupid. Stop-start button, gear selector, and the audio volume and channel toggle are all at the driver’s right finger tips. In this regard, Apple is the most like Audi.
Apple has changed the way we communicate and use mobile devices. Tesla is on a mission to change the way the motoring world powers itself. Both brands are based in California. Both brands are American, thriving in the realm of major Japanese and German players. The Model S features a massive center touch screen that is nearly identical to the iPad, and you have to plug both products into a wall to power up.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2012 Tesla Model S
Most importantly, both brands have a cult-like following. Talk to someone who owns a Tesla Model S, and they will sing its praises– much the same way an iPhone or MacBook user would praise their purchase and deride the competition. Owners of both products have ingested the Kool-Aid, and when each respective brand makes an announcement, it sets the internet, and their stocks ablaze.
For that cult-following reason and others, Tesla is definitely the Apple of the automotive world.