Apple tapped hardware engineering legend Bob Mansfield to head its Project Titan car project, according to The Wall Street Journal. If true, it’s a signal that Apple CEO Tim Cook is committed to the project and serious about bringing a car to market.
Bob Mansfield is an engineering super star. He was long in charge of Mac engineering at Apple, and he also helped shepherd iPad to market. When he stepped down from that post in June of 2012, 8 months after the passing of Steve Jobs, many saw it as a huge blow to Apple.
Fortunately, Tim Cook talked him into a new role advising Mr. Cook and working on “special projects.” Special projects are a catchall at Apple for a variety of unannounced projects. Apple Watch was known to come out of special projects, and Project Titan is under that umbrella, too.
But Bob Mansfield hasn’t been associated with Apple Car before The Wall Street Journal‘s report. The newspaper cited unnamed employees who said senior managers assigned to Project Titan are now reporting to Mr. Mansfield.
The thing about Mr. Mansfield is less about his engineering acumen and more about his management prowess. He has an excellent reputation in the technology world for bringing projects to market, as well as for being willing to kill them when needed.
This is precisely what something as complex as “Apple Car” needs—a person who can wrestle with enormous complexity, but isn’t afraid to just say no. He also has the respect of those who work for him and Silicon Valley as a whole. His qualities combine into a superset of things that Apple needs to see this thing through to completion.
That said, The Journal emphasized that Mr. Mansfield’s new position shouldn’t be mistaken for a sign that Apple is accelerating Apple Car. To that point, reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi cited one source who noted Mr. Mansfield’s track record of canceling projects.
That may well be, but in my opinion, Bob Mansfield’s appointment to his project shows Tim Cook is committed to Apple Car. He’s the kind of heavyweight talent you bring to a project you want completed. I’d also posit that Mr. Mansfield accepting the position after several years in the background means he is committed, too.
All in all, as someone who can’t wait to see what Apple will do in the auto space, this is huge news.
Shares of $AAPL closed lower Monday at US$97.34, down $1.32 (-1.34%), on strong volume of 40.3 million shares trading hands.