Foxconn's electric vehicle ambitions date back to 2014

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Apple partner Foxconn is making a push into the electric car space with a plethora of supply deals, development partnerships and plans to build new factories capable of producing whole vehicles.

Foxconn's ambitions in the EV sector are no secret, with the company making bold moves over the past year to further ingrain itself in the automotive industry and shore up weaknesses as it moves toward whole vehicle production capabilities.

In a report on Friday, Nikkei claims Foxconn founder and former chairman Terry Gou started an initiative to build a prototype EV in 2014. Dubbed the "A-Fu Initiative," the project involved an arm of the company that normally oversees precision instruments.

"If we can make iPhones, why can't we make EVs? It is an iPhone with four wheels," Gou said more than once at internal meetings, according to the report.

"A-Fu" ultimately died due to the complexities associated with building a car, but Foxconn's plans to enter the field are now taking shape.

Gou's successor, Young Liu, set a goal to put Foxconn's designs, components, mechanical parts or software in 5% of global EVs by 2025, the report said. That appears to be just the first step toward an end goal of assembling entire vehicles.

Earlier this month, the company announced plans to begin mass production of at new EV factories in the U.S. and Thailand. It is also exploring the possibility of building similar facilities in Europe.

Foxconn is well positioned to take advantage of a worldwide transition to electric vehicles, as the company and its subsidiaries currently serve as suppliers to both traditional and EV carmakers. The company manufactures a range of components including dashboard displays, mechanical and plastic products, the report said.

Supply and development deals signed over the past year and a half will bolster Foxconn's ability to deliver in areas where it has little to no experience. FIH Mobile, a subsidiary known for producing Android devices, is tasked with boning up on software.

Foxconn last year launched the MIH Alliance in hopes of disrupting the traditional automotive supply pyramid. The consortium, which has already attracted more than 1,800 companies, will set industry standards and develop hardware and software "kits" that EV makers can use in the development of new vehicles.

When the pieces fall into place, Foxconn plans to build whole vehicles for both EV industry newcomers and stalwart carmakers looking to transition to electric, the report said. Apple, already a major partner, would be a natural fit if the tech giant chooses to enter the market.

Apple's efforts to develop an electric self-driving car have been widely reported, but the company's motivation in the space remains unknown. Dubbed by some as "Apple Car," rumors of the initiative began to circulate in 2014, with later reports claiming Apple's car team boasted more than 1,000 employees working on various projects. Work on a branded car was put on hold in late 2016 after development roadblocks led to disagreements in Apple's upper ranks.

More recently, reports in January indicated that Apple was back on track and negotiating manufacturing deals with Hyundai and Kia. Those discussions fell through, but rumors of an "Apple Car" persist. The company is now said to be courting other automakers for a potential deal.