With all of the commotion surrounding the Geneva Motor Show, talk of the prospect of an upcoming Apple car has pretty much dried up, at least for the time being. But we wanted to revisit the idea, because it's something we've been thinking about in entirely the wrong way. To be honest, the idea of an autonomous electric car doesn't appeal to us at all, and it probably doesn't appeal to most gearheads, yet we are positive that the car will be a success.
The reason for this has little to do with whatever the car will be and more to do with the company that sells it. A couple of years ago, Dr. Kristen Bell, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia, published a paper stating that Apple fandom has become practically indistinguishable from religion. Her reasons are many, and it makes a terrifying amount of sense when you read it. But much of it revolves around the idea of a charismatic "leader." This is where we start to relate things to Tesla, because Tesla's corporate culture works in much the same way as Apple's. This is actually done by design, and we already know that Tesla has gotten more of its employees from Apple than from any other source.
Recruiters have said Tesla looks for employees that work well with a strong leader, and the way in which Tesla fans will so rabidly defend the cars and even Elon Musk starts to make a bit more sense.
Much of this is centered around the idea that Musk is alone in his fight against the big money of the automotive industry (Musk is, in fact, the richest automotive company executive in America). This is very similar, again, to how Apple gets such loyal fans. Both companies have clearly defined enemies. For Apple it is Microsoft, while for Tesla it is the internal combustion engine.
Social identity theory shows how it can be ridiculously easy to build a loyal following based on the idea of an enemy, real or perceived. It's how Tesla sells so many cars, by the idea that buying one is doing something bold and rebellious. It will probably ultimately sell a lot of cars for Apple as well, and probably to people who never cared about cars at all before. Neither company is really selling a car, they're selling membership to a club.