Two former Apple employees also recalled how their colleagues built a four-seat sport utility vehicle model that was tested by some indoor staff, similar to a 2015 design Mercedes.
Like recently In 2016, Apple planned to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build research and development labs on the campus in Cupertino, California, including a battery and electric vehicle battery shop and laboratories New York Times
But the members of the car project asked Soon, it was not easy to design and build basic parts of a new car. Apple originally planned to build the car internally, with initial talks about an Apple car plant in the southern United States, said two former employees. But these plans quickly turned to finding a manufacturing partner who could build but not construct the cars.
In late 2015, Apple bought two SUVs from Lexus and hired a Virginia company called Torc Robotics to retrofit the vehicles with sensors, a project known internally as Baja, a former employee said. Apple now has more than 50 of the S.U.V.s and uses them for data collection and limited self-driving tests. In early 2017, California regulators authorized Apple to conduct self-driving tests on public roads with three of the S.U.V.s.
But Apple was not partnering with Lexus and has long sought a formal partner. The company initially worked with Magna Steyr, a Canadian-Austrian contract manufacturer, who, according to two former employees, produced small cars for other car manufacturers such as the Mercedes G-Wagen. A few dozen Magna Steyr employees joined Apple's car team in California, but returned gradually after the partnership ended.
BMW was Apple's first choice for a long time, with focus on high-end mainstream products, former employees said. Many Apple executives, including Timothy D. Cook, chief executive of the company, also drive BMW. Mr. Cook already visited BMW in 2014 to discuss a partnership, and these regular negotiations continued for years. But one person close to the talks said that every deal was dead now because both Apple and BMW wanted to have the customer experience and relationship.