In another sign that Apple might get into the auto business, the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant has quietly hired a former senior executive from Chrysler.
Doug Betts, who was Chrysler’s quality chief and a senior vice president until November, now says on his LinkedIn profile that he works for Apple in a nonspecific “operations” position.
Before Chrysler, Betts worked for Nissan Motors Manufacturing and Toyota Motors Manufacturing.
Betts describes himself as a “senior executive with proven track record of inspirational leadership, innovation, and core knowledge of lean manufacturing and manufacturing quality methods working in a global quality role.”
He says he has a “hands-on knowledge and execution of Toyota Production System operations methodology” and has extensive quality planning, supplier development, manufacturing operations and general management experience.
But he left Chrysler last year after the automaker’s four brands – Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram – finished at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ annual auto quality rankings. The company consistently finished poorly in both the Consumer Reports evaluations and ratings produced by research company J.D. Power during Betts’ tenure at Chrysler.
Apple’s interest in cars and Betts’ hiring were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Apple also has hired Paul Furgale, a Swiss autonomous vehicle and robotics expert, the Journal said.
Another hint of Apple’s designs surfaced in a lawsuit filed against Apple earlier this year by electric car battery maker A123 Systems. The company, which makes batteries for BMW, Daimler and Tata, accused Apple of poaching its employees.
Analysts believe Apple is considering a move into electric vehicles and is hiring various experts, conducting research and evaluating the market. Apple itself has not talked about its automotive plans outside of developing CarPlay, an interface that allows vehicle infotainment systems to tap apps driven by the iPhone.
In a report to investors earlier this year Adam Jonas, auto industry analyst at Morgan Stanley research, noted that Apple generates billions of dollars in profits — $13 billion and $18 billion in its last two quarters, respectively — and has scads of cash available for investment in a capital-intensive project such as car design.
Just one quarter’s worth of free cash flow at Apple, approximately $15 billion, is equal to nearly four months of the combined research and development spending of all of the world’s automakers, he said.
Any vehicle Apple designed would be electric because, Jonas said, that’s the long-term future of the industry as autonomous vehicles hit the roads, speeding a transition from individual car ownership to shared transportation.
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