Many people were scratching their heads this week week after hearing news that Apple may be interested in purchasing McLaren Automotive, a tiny high-end automaker that specializes in race cars.
But dive a little deeper into the possible matchup and it becomes clear that McLaren may be the only carmaker that makes sense for Apple.
McLaren has the benefit of being nimble, focused on high-tech, an expert in lightweight carbon fiber and tuned in to the art of aerodynamics.
Apple has never officially said it's working on its own car, but it has hired a slew of experts working in the field of autonomous and electric cars for the secretive Titan project, although a New York Times report this month said Apple had laid off dozens of employees in its car unit. If Apple is still moving forward with its car plans, a McLaren purchase would accelerate that move.
"Getting into McLaren would give Apple engineering and carmaking competency at the pointy end," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. "This is about gaining research and development knowledge, not about buying a carmaker with mass-production capabilities."
It would make reasonable business sense. In just six years, the separate road-car division, McLaren Automotive, has gone from a startup to generating a consistent -- if small -- profit on annual sales of around 1,500 cars costing upward of $1 million.
McLaren was established by New Zealand-born race driver and car designer Bruce McLaren in 1963 and first competed in the Formula One world championship three years later. It ranks second only to Ferrari in the number of drivers' titles won.
Its racing heritage helps McLaren stay on the cutting edge of technology. In 2012, McLaren Applied Technologies became the sole supplier of engine control units for cars competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup. McLaren Technology Group, which also oversees the firm's Formula One racing team, boasts of clients as diverse as accounting firm KPMG and health care giant GSK. McLaren used its experience turning over race cars in pit stops and to help GSK improve the way it changed its toothpaste manufacturing, speeding up the process when the production line changed from one brand of toothpaste to another.
McLaren's operation might be boutique, but it's desirable from a brand perspective, says Michael Dunne, CEO of electric vehicle-focused analyst firm Dunne Automotive.
"Apple would want to be seen as entering the automotive arena at the very top, several echelons above the incumbents," he said. "McLaren plays at the highest levels when it comes to racing and engineering talent."
Still, the Financial Times story breaking news of the tie-up talks was based on anonymous sources, and McLaren denied being in talks with Apple about an investment.
It could just be that McLaren, based in Woking, England, is an attractive trinket to a company known for its petrolhead directors.
Apple's head of services, Eddy Cue, sits on the board of Ferrari while the Financial Times reports that Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, owns a McLaren. With a market capitalization of $617 billion, Apple could certainly snap up McLaren at its estimated worth of $1 billion without breaking a sweat.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.