Apple has poached a top British Tesla executive in its bid to outsmart the electric car manufacturer ahead of the release of the long-awaited Apple Car.
The Californian company is reported to have been working on an electric vehicle for several years, and has now hired former vice-president of vehicle engineering at Tesla, Chris Porritt, according to automotive site Electrek.
Before joining Tesla, Porritt was a chief engineer at Aston Martin, and he began his career at Land Rover after studying mechanical engineering at the University of Hertfordshire.
Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk has previously jokingly referred to Apple as “the Tesla graveyard”, claiming: “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”
The top-secret electric car is reportedly being developed in a research and development lab in central Berlin.
The Californian company has hired up to 20 automotive industry specialists working under the codename Project Titan in the German capital, reported German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The relatively youthful employees were selected for their “progressive thinking“, and hail from backgrounds including software, hardware, sales and engineering, according to the paper’s sources.
The Apple Car is expected to go on sale in either 2019 or 2020, and will be electric in the vein of Tesla’s vehicles rather than self-driving like Google’s autonomous cars.
Though the car is also being tested and developed at a facility in California, it will reportedly be made in Austria by Magna Steyr.
In the past few years the company has made a series of high-profile hires from the automotive industry, including Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research.
Chief executive Tim Cook added fuel to the fire of speculation last October when he told the car industry to expect change. “It would seem like there will be massive change in that industry, massive change,” Cook said at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference in California. “You may not agree with that. That’s what I think.
“When I look at the automobile, what I see is that software becomes an increasingly important part of the car of the future ... autonomous driving becomes much more important.”
Musk has said that it is an “open secret” that Apple is building a rival vehicle, adding: “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it.”
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice-president of internet software and services, drives a Tesla car, as does Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and head of design Sir Jony Ive is a self-confessed car fanatic.
Rumours have been circulating about Apple’s plans to build a car for several years, with late chief executive and co-founder Steve Jobs said to have been enthusiastic about making a vehicle as far back as 2008, going as far as to think about dashboard and seat appearance.
Tony Fadell, co-founder of Alphabet-owned home automation company Nest and co-creator of the iPod, has described how Jobs decided not to pursue the project at a time when the American automobile industry was in deep trouble.
Apple has registered three car-related web domains, apple.car, apple.auto and apple.cars, and although there is a possibility the domains are intended for Apple’s existing CarPlay system, it’s more likely that, if not to merely prevent others from registering them, the move is linked to the electric car.