Hyundai Motor backed away from a statement confirming it is in talks with Apple on developing self-driving car, saying instead that it received requests for potential cooperation from a number of companies.
Revising its statement for the second time in a matter of hours on Friday, Hyundai said it had been contacted by potential partners for the development of autonomous electric vehicles, removing any reference to Apple.
Hyundai shares surged 19 percent, adding $8 billion to the automaker's market value, after Korean media initially reported on talks with the U.S. company, only slightly paring their gains after the statement confirming discussions was revised.
By naming Apple initially, Hyundai risks Apple's anger. The technology giant is known for its secretiveness when it comes to new products and partnerships.
With development work still at an early stage, Apple will take at least half a decade to launch an autonomous electric vehicle, people with knowledge of the efforts have told Bloomberg News. That suggests the company is in no hurry to decide on potential auto-industry partners.
Hyundai’s stock jump in Seoul was the biggest since 1988. A cable TV unit of Korea Economic Daily first reported the discussions with Apple, saying Hyundai completed internal talks on the project and is awaiting approval from the chairman.
Following the report, Hyundai initially issued a statement saying that it is one of various automakers that Apple had been in early contact with. The South Korean company then revised that statement less than 30 minutes later, removing the reference to other automakers.
A few hours after that, it issued another revision that omitted Apple: "We have been receiving requests for potential cooperation from various companies regarding development of autonomous EVs," the latest version said. "No decisions have been made as discussions are in early stage."
Apple declined to comment.
The iPhone maker is notoriously secretive with employees and suppliers. In 2018, it warned workers to stop leaking internal information on future plans and raised the specter of potential legal action and criminal charges, saying in an internal memo it had "caught 29 leakers" in the previous year. In 2012, CEO Tim Cook pledged to double down on keeping the company's work under wraps.
An Apple car would rival electric vehicles from Tesla and offerings from companies such as upstart Lucid Motors and established manufacturers like Daimler and Volkswagen. Setting up a car plant can cost billions of dollars and take years, likely the reason why Apple is talking to potential manufacturing partners.