Apple Hires Auto Exec with Manufacturing Experience

| Analysis

Apple has hired Doug Betts, a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executive in charge of global quality at the legacy automaker. Mr. Betts's experience is in the world of automobile manufacturing—The Wall Street Journal called him an "auto industry manufacturing veteran"—and the hire could signal that Apple is getting more serious about building a car.

Carriage with Apple Logo

TMO Artist's Mockup of a Possible Apple Car

Mr. Betts's LinkedIn profile lists his title as simple "Operations - Apple, Inc." with an office somewhere in San Francisco. Apple's car group is thought to be working out of San Francisco. Neither Apple, nor Mr. Betts, nor anyone associated with his former company has offered commentary on his hire.

Yep

Word that Apple was developing a car first broke earlier this year, a move confirmed at the time by my own sources. Since then, Apple has hired several executives from the auto industry. In addition to Mr. Betts, Apple has snagged Johann Jungwirth, the former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development. Plus, Apple has at least one Ford veteran, one Steve Zadesky.

Apple also hired Mujeeb Ijaz, the CFO of an automobile battery company called A123 Systems, and several key employees from the firm. A123 sued Apple in a case that was eventually settled.

Apple and Tesla have also been engaged in a poaching frenzy in the last year or two, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk bragging that his company had poached five times as many employees from Apple as the iPhone maker had hired from Tesla.

One of the more exciting hiring tidbits is that Apple hired Paul Furgale, a researcher in the field of autonomous vehicles.

Here's the thing: Apple is working on a car. For sure. If you didn't believe me when I yepped it, you should believe The Wall Street Journal piece that said Apple had a thousand member team on the project, which was codenamed Titan.

For Sure Doesn't Necessarily Mean Definitely

This is Apple we're talking about, however; yeah, it's working on a car, but that doesn't necessarily mean an Apple Car will ever be released. Apple is capable of pouring hundreds of millions, if not billions, into a project like this only to get to a point where it decides not to release it.

For a car, prime reasons could include:

  • Apple can't differentiate enough of the experience to set the device apart from other cars.
  • Apple can't control enough key technologies, materials, or software to allow it to own the experience.
  • Key legislation outside of Apple's control prohibits an Apple car from doing the big differentiating feature they bring to market.
  • One or more technologies or materials fails to deliver what Apple wanted.

And a host of others. We saw some of that at work when The Journal ran a piece based on a controlled leak detailing why and when Apple abandoned its television set project. The same thing could happen to Apple Car no matter how much Apple spends on the project or who it hires.

There's something about the hiring of Mr. Betts, though, that makes it seem like Apple is moving ahead full steam on this project. The man has twenty years of experience in manufacturing, and you don't start getting serious manufacturing unless you want to actually make it.

I don't mean to say that Mr. Betts's hiring means that Apple Car is going into production any time soon, but it does likely indicate Apple is exploring manufacturing needs and opportunities. To me, that suggests there is a certain gravitas to Apple's car plans, and that Apple is getting more serious about this thing.

That's exciting.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

Okay where is Cudaboy?

skipaq

Actually, Apple has two independent teams working on this secret project. The vehicles laden with cameras and sensors thought to be working on Maps improvements are covertly gathering data for project Titan. The goal of Titan is an autonomous hover car that when released will allow CarPlay to really take off. While there is no truth to the rumor that Titan will have time travel as a feature; a major feature will be the “greening” of roadways.

gopher

FIAT= Fix it all the time.  I hope Apple realizes that.

CudaBoy

Apple is NOT working on a car. They are “playing” with a system of integration of technologies that future autonomous cars could use.
Did Apple come out with Apple Soda because they were led by Pepsi-Boy for years??? No. Do high-tech co.s poach from other high-tech firms? Yes.  Never mind that anything associated with FIAT is a mess and Sergio has been flouncing around like a cheap floozie trying to garner a merger. The only thing worse for Chrysler than the German’s were is the Italians aka FIA.  Vis a vis cars - one doesn’t have to “control the whole widget” as Apple likes to do - merely create the best “brains” for the future systems. IMO, Terrafugia will release a flying car before Apple makes a Car- both are vapor as of now though the TF-X video LOOKS cool: http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1099220_terrafugia-hasnt-built-its-first-flying-car-yet-but-heres-a-video-for-the-next-one#src=10065

Scott B in DC

@gopher, when I was “growing up” and one of the cars that were popular was the FIAT Spider (look it up), we used to say “Fix It Again, Tony.” grin

However, that being said, that was the old FIAT. The new FCAU is a much different company. Having some experience with the new Mopars I can tell you that they are really well done and solid vehicles. And these are the guys who came up with the SRT Hellcat, the only “full size” 707 hp production vehicle on the road. You can read more about the Hellcat at newsrt.com.

BTW: Rumor has it that next year’s Hellcat will be 757 hp and no increase in price. An update to the supercharger for better manufacturing boosted the performance. Car & Driver loved the idea and cannot wait.

Now if this guy can bring that type of performance to Apple, my stock will do much better!!

CudaBoy

Except the Hellcat had nothing to do with FIAT - the 6.2 HEMI was already there and the car was developed by Daimler who pillaged MOPAR and then left it bereft -except for the 300,Magnum,Challenger & Charger RWD platform. Besides - the Tesla with Insane Mode can beat the Hellcat and the new P90 with Ludicrous Mode will kill the Hellcat even more without using fossil fuel.
The Dart is a bomb, the 200 is meh, and Jeep is the most valuable brand FIAT has.  The old 124 was a fun car though - and not as bad as people make it out to be. The 124 was the poor man’s Alfa. Look for the new Fiat spider based on the Mazda Miata.

modhu

Nice post.
industrial blenders

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