When I first heard this reported a few weeks ago there was some snorting. Oh was there ever some self-aware robust snorting. From the saftey of my (analog) car.
Now I'm thinking this may be the killing blow dealt by apple to the consumer electronics industry. When I saw 50 Cent rocking an iPod in a video on MTV back in 2003 (pre youtube!?) I new that the zeitgeist was just getting warm. From the white headphones to the cottage industry of 3rd party peripherals, the industry understood with painful clarity, how self worth is tied to these little things. While they became ubiquitous, they never lost their luster at the rate of, say a Motorola RAZR. In large part due to where gredit must be given - Apple still adopted planned obsolescence, but supplemented that with genuine and highly strategic feature innovations. There's always some new hotness around the corner, that actually does something new or better (than the previous model).
Flash forward to 2007 and the announcment of iCar plans. Obviously there won't be a unique model, but an iCar trim, and more importantly, an iCar badge. Consider the market for fake auto badges (can't afford an M3 - no problem; just take your basement level 330, and slap an M3 badge and ground effects on it). Consider the marketing tactics around real badges. If all people really wanted was quad zone climate control and a reverse gear activated rear window cam, they wouldn't need the XL badge on their SUV. They don't need it, but they want it. Take it from a guy who covets the material - that is there to impress every other educated consumer who either owns the same model, or investigated it for possible purchase at one time.
So an "iCar" badge on your Jetta GLI? What better way to let people know you have a sick sound system (especially when you don't have anything in your playlist bumping 808s) and a totally integrated smart vehicle that must have the same attention to user interface and ergonomics as any other Apple offering.
As a marketeer, I'm less cycnical about marketing, and more of the mind of "lets see where this hideous cultural trainwreck goes... off the rails, down the embankment, off an overpass, into a school, through yucca mountain... still going... still going..." I applaud the decision, and can't wait to see how big this gets, if only to see the backlash. And besides, its pretty crazy to think you could buy shares of apple stock now, and still make some cash off them in 5 years.