The road to getting a new electric
to market has never been smooth, as Apple learned again this week. The company’s efforts to bring its design chops to America’s highways seems to have run into a roadblock with reports that project head Steve Zadesky is leaving.
Zadesky is said to be leaving for personal reasons unrelated to his work at Apple. The company’s automotive division reportedly expanded to about 600 employees as of last year. Elon Musk, head of rival electric automaker Tesla Automotive, has said it's his opinion that Apple has already hired more than 1,000 automotive engineers to help design the new vehicle.
Still Plenty of Auto Engineers
Zadesky (pictured above, inset) was never publicly in charge of the company’s electric car project, of course. Indeed, Apple has yet to publicly disclose whether it is even actually working on such a project. Nevertheless, the existence of Project Titan, as Apple’s electric car is said to be named, is something of an open secret in Silicon Valley. The company has already registered a number of car-related URLs, such as apple.car, apple.cars, and apple.auto.
Officially, Zadesky is still listed as vice president of product design, including of items like the iPod and iPhone. While Zadesky has worked at Apple for almost 17 years, he spent the previous three years working as an engineer at Ford Motor Company. The loss of Zadesky’s automotive engineering experience is sure to be a setback for the tech giant.
But it will likely be a small one. Although there may be few executives with Zadesky’s experience in both the automotive and technology industries, automotive engineers have become the newest rock stars of Silicon Valley. Not only are Tesla and Apple hiring engineers away from the traditional big three automakers -- General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler -- but Google has also gotten into the act with its efforts to design an autonomous driving system.
Project Titan Remains a Top Priority
Apple has already listed Project Titan as one of its major design priorities, according to reports. The importance the company is said to have given the initiative should prevent Zadesky’s departure from having any serious impact on resource allocation within the company. And Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Daimler, said that Apple’s progress on its vehicle is already much further along than he had anticipated.
The company is undoubtedly hoping that jumping into the automobile business will give it a new blockbuster product to help drive sales. Although Apple has a number of hugely successful devices in the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, all of these product lines have seen sales growth plateau as they reach market saturation. Newer products, such as the Apple Watch, have so far failed to generate the same sort of hype as its previous blockbusters.
But Apple faces considerable competition as it looks to revolutionize the auto industry the same way it did smartphones. In addition to Tesla and Google, newcomers like Faraday Future and Fisker Automotive are also looking to corner the market, while established automakers like GM have made major advances in their electric vehicles.
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