Apple Inc., which is working to build an electric car, has held talks about investing in British sports-car maker McLaren Technology Group, according to a person familiar with the matter, but McLaren denies any talks are ongoing.
The person familiar with the matter said the discussions began “several months ago” but wouldn’t discuss whether they are ongoing.
The person familiar with the matter also said Apple had held talks with Lit Motors Corp., a closely held San Francisco maker of two-wheeled electric vehicles. Lit declined to comment.
Together, the reports suggest that Apple, which recently laid off several dozen employees who had been working on its car project, may be refocusing its efforts and bolster its automotive-engineering expertise.
Initial Project Titan designs resembled a minivan, The Wall Street Journal reported last year, but a company like McLaren would open the door to a new world of materials expertise.
It wouldn’t be unusual for a company such as Apple to look to a specialty auto maker for help jump-starting its car-making efforts. Tesla Motors Inc., for example, worked with Group Lotus PLC in its early days, including using the auto maker as a contract manufacturer to build the Roadster.
McLaren Automotive is a small-scale manufacturer, which sold fewer than 2,000 cars in 2015. Chief Executive Mike Flewitt told Automotive News in May that the company plans to invest nearly $1.5 billion over the next six years in research and development of 15 new products. Mr. Flewitt told the publication that McLaren hopes to sell 5,000 cars annually by 2022.
The automotive unit has more than 50 dealerships around the world and employs more than 1,000 people, according to its website. The company sells cars that range in price from less than $200,000 to more than $1 million, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Lit Motors represents the other end of the vehicle spectrum. The San Francisco startup is working to build a $24,000 electric motorcycle that stands up on its own. The system uses gyroscopes to keep the two-wheel vehicle standing upright, even if it is involved in a collision, the company says on its website. That kind of technology could prove useful if Apple builds a self-driving vehicle targeted at dense urban environments.