Apple Car Team Snatches Former BMW SVP Adding to Roster of Automotive Hot-Shots

BMW i8 Credit: Patrick Poendl / Shutterstock
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Even though Apple has reportedly lost some key managers from its automotive team this year, it appears that any setbacks resulting from this will be short-lived, as it’s not having any trouble filling in those spaces with other top-tier talent.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple has just made one of its most significant automotive hires ever, with former BMW senior vice-president Ulrich Kranz joining the Apple Car Dream Team.

A 30-year veteran of BMW, Kranz rose to Senior VP of the group responsible for BMW’s all-electric vehicles such as the i3 and i8. He left BMW at the end of 2016 to serve a brief stint as Chief Technology Officer for Faraday Future before co-founding self-driving car company Canoo in late 2017.

Kranz served as CEO of Canoo until only a few weeks ago, when he was quickly snapped up by Apple. It’s probably no coincidence that Apple was in talks with Canoo last year about a possible acquisition, similar to how it absorbed Drive.ai back in 2019. While Canoo reportedly rebuffed Apple’s advances, preferring to find investment on its own terms, it seems that the company’s CEO may have found Apple’s automotive ambitions to be more compelling than whatever Canoo was up to.

At this point, it’s unclear exactly what Kranz’s role will be on Apple’s car team. Apple has confirmed his hiring without offering any additional details, but sources have told Gurman that Kranz will be reporting directly to Doug Field, the former Apple engineer who spent some time at Tesla before returning to Apple to become the hands-on head of the Apple Car’s development.

When Field came back on board in 2018, he originally reported to legendary Apple executive Bob Mansfield, the former Senior VP who headed up most of Apple’s biggest hardware products over the past two decades. While Mansfield was pulled out of retirement at least twice to head up “special projects” like the Apple Car, he retired for good late last year, as the project officially shifted out of hardware into the company’s artificial intelligence division headed up by former Google AI Chief John Giannandrea.

Since then, however, Apple has continued building a team of heavy-hitters from the automotive industry, demonstrating that it’s taking the project very seriously.

Kranz will be in some pretty heady company, joining a team that’s made up of top engineers and designers, including:

  • Former Porsche design chief Dr. Manfred Harrer, a 13-year veteran of the luxury carmaker who most recently headed up the Porsche Cayenne product line.
  • Industrial designer Steve McManus, a luxury automotive design specialist who came to Apple from Tesla, but also previously served in senior engineering and design positions at Aston Martin, Bentley, and January & Land Rover.
  • Former Tesla VP of Engineering Dr. Michael Schwekutsch, widely considered to be one of the top designers of electric and hybrid powertrains in the world, having developed groundbreaking powertrain designs for the BMW i8, the Porsche 918 Spyder, and more.
  • Former Tesla Senior Designer Andrew Kim, who was a driving force behind the interior designs of the Model 3, Model S, Semi, and Roadster v2, but also has a background that includes work on Microsoft’s Xbox One S and HoloLens AR headset.

Those names are just the tip of the iceberg, as the team reportedly includes thousands of employees. When we last heard numbers back in 2019, it had reached 5,000 employees, but considering that was a five-fold increase from what it had two years earlier, it’s safe to say this number has continued to grow since then.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses for Apple’s Car team, as it’s recently lost a few big names too, including former Waymo and NASA engineer Jaime Waydo, who headed up systems engineering for Google’s car project after coming over from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs, where she was one of the senior engineers on the Mars rover project. Waydo left Apple in February of this year to become Chief Technology Officer for Cavnue, a startup that aims to ensure the safety of autonomous cars on public roads.

Still, Apple seems to be gaining more than it’s losing here, as it continues to pick up much bigger names from the premium carmakers that will bring the kind of key experiences and unique perspectives that the Apple Car needs if it’s going to take the market by storm.

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