Rumors and questions about Apple's secretive automotive project have been swirling for years. Does the company intend to build its own EV, or is it just focusing on autonomous driving software? Has "Project Titan" been killed off or is it still actively being pursued behind the scenes? Today, we have more clarity on the issue - as a result of yet another Tesla executive departure... and reapparance.
Tesla's former head of electric powertrains, Michael Schwekutsch, who was reported to have left the company earlier this month, has re-surfaced at Apple.
Schwekutsch's departure from Tesla was described as a "big loss for Tesla" by the pro-Tesla blog electrek back in early March. They described him as "a hardcore electric powertrain engineer" who helped engineer the Model 3 powertrain. While at Tesla he also worked on the development of “leading edge Drive Systems like the one of the Tesla Roadster II and Tesla Semi/Tesla Truck.”
He has now joined Apple’s Special Project Group, which includes the company’s Project Titan division, according to electrek. This seems to clear up any confusion as to whether or not Apple is actually working on vehicle hardware. It was previously believed that Apple's Project Titan could only consist of a self-driving software system for other vehicles.
Bulls and bears will likely see this event through their respective lenses. Bears may claim it as proof that Apple's coming EV project will act as direct competition to Tesla. Bulls will probably try to argue (the aggressive point) that this is foreshadowing for Tesla to eventually partner with, or be acquired by, Apple.
Schwekutsch will join other former Tesla executives like Doug Field and Bob Mansfield, both of whom were longtime engineering executives at Tesla. Apple is also being said to be hiring "several other former Tesla employees".
More importantly, it looks like the nearly $1 trillion market cap behemoth - desperate for new avenues of "growth" - will build an EV from the ground up, introducing the question of what a real foray into technology EVs would look like when organized, run by a profitable company, and overseen by competent management.
If Apple winds up making an EV (as long as it's not the Howard), one assumes that Apple's eventual vehicle might actually deliver the unfulfilled promises and half truths that Tesla cultists have clung to for the last half decade. On top of that, Apple has the brand equity, engineering, resources and most importantly, unlimited capital to make a vehicle that could push Tesla into irrelevance.
In 2015, Elon Musk said about Apple:
“They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.”
Let's see how soon it is before Musk is eating those words.