When former Ford boss Alan Mulally came to the carmaker from Boeing, not many would have wondered if a play into the airliner business was on the cards. Likewise, former Pepsi-Cola executive John Sculley’s move to tech upstart Apple in 1983 had few anticipating an assault on the soda market.
But, then, neither company had already been embroiled in rumours of a new venture so far removed from their usual field of play. For one of those two, that appears to be changing, with news this week that 28-year automotive industry veteran Doug Betts has signed on with Apple in an “operations” capacity.
That’s according to his profile on employment networking website LinkedIn, however.
Neither Betts nor Apple have uttered a word on the matter. Just what is Betts doing at Apple? Like Mulally at Ford, and Sculley at Apple before him, Betts may simply have been recruited for his corporate experience in general.
Of course, with Apple long rumoured to be building up to a foray into the auto industry, and with test cars for the so-called ‘Project Titan’ spied in recent months, it’s easy to assume Betts has come to Apple for something a little more specific.
Betts most recently worked with Fiat Chrysler, where he led the company’s global quality control program. (Interestingly, his exit came just one day after the carmaker ranked at the bottom of a Consumer Reports reliability study in the US.)
The former Nissan, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler executive is hardly the first motoring veteran to join Apple, either. Ford engineer Steve Zadesky stands out as the star of Apple’s automotive program, with the veteran product designer believed to be the head of Project Titan.
Another former Forder, Marc Newson, joined Apple in 2014. Newson is best known for his work on Ford’s 1999 ‘021C’ concept, a rather Apple-esque design.
Apple is also known to have made moves on Tesla staff - and vice versa, for that matter. The tech company, which already produces infotainment technology for vehicles, has been urged in recent months to steer clear of any bigger aspirations in the auto industry.
Speaking with Bloomberg earlier this year, former GM CEO Daniel Akerson said shareholders would not be pleased with the cost and risk of such a move.
“I would be highly suspect of the long-term prospect of getting into a low-margin, heavy-manufacturing [business],” he said.