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How will Apple transform the automotive world? With a car you can never buy

A car from Cupertino? An Apple auto? The iCar, for goodness sake? Some scoff, calling it preposterous and questioning the legitimacy of the “sources” who told Bloomberg an electric vehicle could come as early as 2020. Others embrace the idea, eagerly hoping Apple will take on the likes of Tesla and Elon Musk in the electric-vehicle game.

When it comes down to it, it’s likely — if those sources are to be believed — that Apple is indeed building a car. Starting a car company really is just a money game, when it’s all said and done. And as we know, Apple has plenty of that, having reported a record net profit of $18 billion last quarter alone. If a company has that sort of cash, it can hire all the people needed to make the parts fall into place. And a recent report from 9to5Mac detailed the key execs Apple has hired, from Mercedes-Benz and Tesla parts makers like A123 Systems and ECMO Gears.

Considering all that, a 2020 launch date for the Apple car may sound surprising but is actually fairly reasonable.

Indeed, an Apple car — like so many Apple products before it — may transform car sales, but it won’t necessarily revolutionize the automotive world with its design or performance. Frankly, Apple would be remiss to try to reshape how cars are formed or how fast they can go. That’s another story, though.

Instead, if it’s smart and serious about entering the car realm, Apple should launch the world’s first share-only car. That and that alone would shake up and turn the automotive industry upside down — in Apple’s favor.

Dealers forsaken

Tesla, as we have seen time and time again, is fighting an uphill battle to circumvent the dealer network in this country, keen to sell cars directly to customers. There are plenty of reasons why Tesla might want do this. Chief among them is that Elon Musk wants to do things his way, rather than follow the beaten path.

Apple, like Tesla before it, will want to blaze its own EV trail as well. And following Musk’s would be unwise for a whole host of reasons. Never actually selling the car to consumers, though, would solve many issues.

First, never selling but rather sharing the car would keep the power in the hands of the Apple brand, and out of the grubby meat hooks of third-party dealers. Second, it’d be the road yet untraveled, which is sexy (and all-too Apple). And most important, it would be the only substantive way to redefine and leave Apple’s indelible mark on the automotive industry. Think Different, right? Because car sharing is coming, and with or without Apple it will change the way we relate to cars and individual mobility.

Share me

Car sharing is coming in a serious way, whether it is in a few years or a few decades … and all the major brands know it. But it seems none wants to be the first to really embrace it. This makes sense, because their current business model works (and why fix something that isn’t broken?).

Car sharing is inevitable, though. As global populations become more urbanized and our gadgets continually redefine freedom and mobility, fewer people will be interested in owning a car. That said, they’ll still need one from time to time. And that’s where sharing comes into play.

Never actually selling the car to consumers would solve many issues.

Automakers like Audi and Ford have told me at length how they aren’t opposed to car sharing; it will mean more cars on the road, racking up more miles more quickly. That means more cars will need to be produced, which equates to more profits.

To get car sharing truly rolling, there needs to be a spark to start the car-sharing fire, however, and Apple could be the flint. It stands alone — thanks to those vast sums of money and proven track history as an transformer — as the biggest threat to the automotive establishment.

Related: Apple’s secret project Titan: a minivan-like electric vehicle?

So put away your Apple Pay, fanboys, and stop hoarding iTunes gift cards. You won’t be buying an Apple Car anytime soon.

But we may all be sharing rides in them regardless.