February 22, 2015

Apple Is Not Building a Car

Dennis O'Donnell

Recent rumors over Apple’s new automobile department have reached a fever pitch. However, although I think a lot of us would love to see Apple design a new car (or a new kitchen appliance, new TV, new anything that is starved for great design), the evidence simply is not there.

What evidence is everyone pointing to?
The largest piece of evidence, cited by major media outlets like Quartz and Bloomberg, is Apple’s recent poaching from A123, Tesla, Ford, GM, and Toyota. Yeah, these companies are definitely automotive-focused companies…but who, exactly, is Apple hiring? What positions? I don’t think this has anything to do with making a new car – in fact, I think it has to do exactly with the same old products we’ve seen for years from Apple (like iPhone and iPad), and things we’re expecting to see more of (like CarPlay) – based on the positions they’re hiring.

Where are all the powertrain and vehicle safety engineers?
If Apple were to build a car, wouldn’t they need powertrain engineers? Safety experts? Tesla Motors alone has over 100 powertrain engineers. Ford? Well over 500. Apple has fewer than 20 people with any powertrain experience – and even of these 20, some were only interns at other companies, or working on projects more relevant to core Apple products (at least 2 of these were Noise, Vibration, and Acoustics engineers). Sorry to say, but you probably can’t build a car with less than 20 powertrain engineers.

This isn’t news: Apple wants battery engineers
So who is Apple hiring? Why all the fuss over these hires from Ford, GM, and Tesla? If you look through these new hires on LinkedIn, you’ll notice they’re heavily concentrated on recruiting, operations, and battery engineering. The companies they’re hiring from are known for having top talent – who wouldn’t want a recruiter from Tesla? Of course it makes sense to pull the guy who worked on plastics manufacturing at Toyota to work on plastics at Apple. It probably makes a ton of sense that a company that has sold over 1 billion battery-powered devices is hiring top battery engineering talent from top battery companies.

When you see a company like Apple hire a ton of battery engineers, and 100% of their products already contain batteries, the logical conclusion is that they’re improving their batteries….not making a car. As the saying goes: “If it looks like a horse and walks like a horse, it’s probably not a car from Apple.”

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