Apple hires veteran Fiat Chrysler auto industry executive

“Apple Inc. is recruiting experts from the auto industry, a signal that its efforts to develop an electric car could be gaining ground,” Christina Rogers, Mike Ramsey and Daisuke Wakabayashi report for The Wall Street Journal. “Doug Betts, who led global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV until last year, is now working for the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics giant but declined to comment on the position when reached Monday. Along with Mr. Betts, whose expertise points to a desire to know how to build a car, Apple recently recruited one of the leading autonomous-vehicle researchers in Europe and is building a team to work on those systems.”

“Apple has hired hundreds of people to work on an electric-car project code-named ‘Titan,'” Rogers, Ramsey and Wakabayashi report. “Earlier this year, Apple hired Paul Furgale a well-regarded autonomous vehicle researcher in Switzerland, and has begun recruiting other robotics and machine vision experts to work on a confidential project.”

“Apple CEO Tim Cook appointed Steve Zadesky to lead the group, a veteran product designer and former Ford Motor Co. engineer. Mr. Zadesky was given permission to create a 1,000-person team and recruit employees from other parts of Apple, people familiar with the matter said,” Rogers, Ramsey and Wakabayashi report. “Mr. Betts could be the first major automotive executive to join Apple with experience leveled more at the manufacturing side of the business. For nearly two decades, he has worked in product quality and manufacturing at an auto company, first as a general manager at Toyota Motor Corp. and later as a vice president at Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, now FCA US LLC.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

If they’re smart, the vehicle industry should be preparing for their iPhone moment.

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33 Comments

      1. No one company is entirely crap, however the quality of Nissans has never been industry-leading and with the exception of Lexus, Toyota’s quality problems in the last decade have come in wave after wave. Nothing on this guy’s resume indicates that he is directly to blame for any one thing, but he sure hasn’t turned around any of his former company’s many quality issues either.

        Here’s the real cause for concern: quality in modern cars is high in mechanical parts, but electric and electronic issues have killed the vaunted ratings of all the Japanese makes, Ford with its horrible Sync, and even Mercedes, the gadget king. All the electronic crap that automakers force you to buy is obsolete in months, and in an automotive environment, electrical gremlins always show up eventually. This guy can only make cars worse. Autonymous vehicles are just a bad idea that lawyers will have a heyday with in short order.

        If you want a reliable vehicle, you buy a stripped Chevy pickup and drive it for 300k miles. And get off your #$%^&* iPhone while you’re driving.

          1. Actually, in the total lifetime assessment, the longer one drives a car, the better. The pollution required to build a new car is significantly worse than the pollution from driving a reasonably well maintained old car. Statistics show that the Chevy pickup is, on average, the longest lasting vehicle in the USA, and its durability more than makes up for the difference in emissions. Think about it.

        1. And after that you leave that pickup in your front yard along with the washer, refrigerator, bicycles and other trash, just like any other hillbilly does.

          1. Oh boy, let’s play the brand alignment game! Because you know that tells everyone everything they need to know about a particular vehicle purchase.

            In quality ratings, Porsche has been tops for years. That doesn’t mean that everything that its parent company VW builds is world class. You get what you pay for.

            1. That wasn’t my intention. Previous poster tied Lexus to Nissan, (…”quality of Nissans has never been industry-leading and with the exception of Lexus…”) so I just wanted to clarify.

            2. Green mentioned Lexus and Toyota in the same sentence: “…and with the exception of Lexus, Toyota’s quality problems in the last decade have come in wave after wave”.

              That sounds like a true statement to me.

              Lexus makes a good car, but they are as butt ugly as Acuras these days. What ever happened to the handsome styling they had with the original SC400?

        2. Lot of good thoughts, Green. The complexity of cars has greatly increased over the past couple of decades, and much of it is associated with computers, sensors, actuators, and software.

    1. I am sure there were probably hires from other phone companies when iPhone was ramping up. It helps to know the inside works of other manufactures so that you can avoid their pitfalls. The difference here is that Apple is primarily no more a car manufacturer than they are a phone, computer, or watch company. They are in fact a design company. The are the crossroads of art and tech, just as Jobs always claimed. They design wonderful products and hire experts to make it happen. This will neither be a Fiat, Chrysler, or any other car for that matter any more than Apple produced a phone with buttons like all the other phones before iPhone came out.

  1. as an investor I would Love for Apple to broaden it’s scope.

    Cars might be the first step to robotics which I believe is the future. (we need robots to care for our elderly, mine resources from space, build space solar collectors etc).

    what I am concerned about is whether with the large influx of senior management from outside whether even things like Apple University is enough to keep Apple’s unique mystique and way of doing things alive. Senior management guys are notorious egoists (that’s how they got to the top) and hard to change.

    perhaps thats why they got the two VPs to help Ive if Ive’s been tasked more to deal with the auto team (they might need an Apple exec with weight there ).

  2. Quality and Chrysler should never be in the same sentence unless lack of or deficient is included.
    Fix It Again Tony – FIAT

    FIAT’s quality was so poor they abandoned the US market in the 1970’s. They recently proposed a merger with the other home of Obamamobiles- Government Motors- so they can make even more ugly shit to ply our roads with defective components and systems.

    1. True that FIAT quality has been shameful in the past, as has Chrysler and other American makes. But times change. Now instead of being worst in the industry, FIAT is just hovering below average.

      For your information, all American auto companies, including some suppliers, took direct loans or had their commercial loans underwritten by Uncle Sam. Just like the Europeans, and just like the Japanese, and just like the Koreans.

      My guess is that you haven’t driven a new GM car in a while. I assure you that most of them are better than their equivalent Fiats in every meaningful way. You have to determine whether the cash on the hood of the FIATs is more important than the design quality of the competition.

      Bottom line, everyone should be concerned that Apple is hiring from second-rate automakers.

      JD Power initial quality ratings for 2015 show that Porsche
      (a premium division of VW) is tops among brands, but Chevrolet (the entry-level division of GM) had just as many standout models. Americans are back.

      1. Ford did not. I am a shareholder in Apple and Ford.
        As to GM, l spent a month driving different cars as my car was repaired from a collision. Crapolet is still Crapolet and Crapillac is still Crapillac.
        Chryslers are the ugliest thing on the road next GM.

        1. Ford received $5.9 billion in 2009 from the DOE. It received a $9 billion credit line underwritten by the Fed that Ford did draw from.

          Ford was also the primary lobby behind the “cash for clunkers” program that the Fed paid for to remove old cars, including ~90,000 Fords, from the road in 2009.

          You really should check your facts instead of listening to Ford’s shameless propaganda.

          1. No
            Ford asked for a line of credit in case the economy worsened- it did not and they did not.
            The loan they got from the DoE was not related to the TARP bailout and was available to many manufacturers to retool. All kinds of government programs exist to stimulate business and help domestic companies stay competitive.

            GM and Chrysler were sent through managed Bankruptcy and their pension liabilities transferred to the government. Most of the former GM was liquidated at a loss to the taxpayer- the current company is a new corporation built from the parts of the old company seen to have a future. Chrysler was simply a basket case and was given to FIAT as nobody else wanted it.

            Via GMAC, Delphi and GM the company cost taxpayers a net of better than 80 Billion Dollars that will never be repaid.

            Ford took a line of credit it did not use and took a redevelopment loan unrelated to the TARP program that was used to bail out GM, Chrysler, the Banksters, GE and others.

            Nice try.

  3. Apple’s poor execution and lack of focus on its current products is already alarming. Now teaming up with people from the laggard in the auto industry is really not a step in the right direction. If Jobs famously said Blu Ray is a “bag of hurt”, then he would have significantly more to say about the low-margin, high-liability auto industry. It makes absolutely no sense for Apple to get into any kind of car manufacturing. The only reason Apple is blowing money on autonomous cars is because Tim as usual is following whatever Google does. Cook would be better off getting Maps to work accurately and intuitively.

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