1 Number Explains the Real Reason the Apple Car Could Crush Tesla and Every Other EV Maker

The Apple Car is one of the worst-kept secrets in tech today. The company has been reportedly working on its own electric vehicle (EV), known as Project Titan, for years. Of course, even the most optimistic reports suggest it could be another three years before Apple releases an actual product. That assumes the world’s largest company decides it’s worth it at all. 

“We investigate so many things internally,” Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, told Kara Swisher last year. “Many of them never see the light of day.”

One thing that might make Cook more likely to want to get the Apple Car out the door is a  recent survey from Strategic Vision that suggests that more people would consider one as their next purchase than any other carmaker besides Honda and Toyota.

Not only that, but 24 percent of consumers say they “love” the quality of an Apple Car, which is kind of ridiculous for something no one has ever seen and may never be able to buy. In fact, that one number–24 percent–is the biggest reason Apple could crush the EV market if it decides to ship a car–especially Tesla.  

That’s because the number isn’t based on any rational analysis of the features or value of an Apple Car. It’s based entirely on the perception of Apple as a company, and it’s ability to deliver a quality product. 

Look, I get that it’s risky betting on something you can’t buy and that may never even go on sale to consumers. I also understand that there are plenty of people who really like their Teslas and are going to be very angry with me. 

I’ll be the first to admit that Tesla makes very nice cars. I know this because I drive a Model S, and it’s wonderful. Mine is a few years old, which is great because it even has a steering wheel. 

At the same time, build quality has never really seemed to be a high priority at Tesla. It’s a long-running joke that people get a brand new Tesla only to discover all sorts of strange issues like panel gaps, yellowing around the touch screen, and even misaligned lift gates.

Sure, the Apple Car could be a dud. It could have just as many problems as any other car. The thing is, people assume it will be good, which means they’ll give it a chance. In fact, far more people say they’ll consider an Apple Car–a vehicle that does not exist–than a Tesla, which has sold more than 3 million vehicles. 

The reason should be obvious: Apple is a company that makes high-end electronic devices that people love. Because of that, people trust that if it makes a car–a product exponentially more complicated than an iPhone–it will be good. That trust may be completely misguided, but it’s real. People associate Apple with high-end, high-quality products.

No other electric vehicle maker has started with that much of a head start. Even Ford, which makes the most popular vehicle in America, the F-150, doesn’t have that kind of brand affection. There are a lot of people who drive its flagship pickup truck who will never buy the electric version.

There are a lot of open questions about the Apple Car, including the most obvious one, which is whether it’s even real in the first place. The one question that seems easy to answer is whether anyone will buy it. Based on this survey, the answer is absolutely yes. That’s a powerful place to start. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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