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Electric car battle intensifies as Apple just hired one of Tesla’s top executives

Apple Car

When there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. And when it comes to Apple’s long-rumored car project, there’s a whole a lot of smoke. Just yesterday, word broke that Apple has a top-secret design lab in Berlin, Germany where a team of 15-20 engineers with deep experience in the auto industry are busy working on projects relating to Apple’s electric car initiative. And earlier today, a new report from Electrek relays that Apple just poached an extremely senior Tesla engineer named Chris Porritt.

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During his stint at Tesla, Porritt served as the company’s VP of Vehicle Engineering where his work centered on the Model S and the Model X. Before that, Porritt was the chief engineer over at Aston Martin, a position that followed a 10 year stint as a principal engineer at Land Rover.

So while Elon Musk previously quipped that the only engineers that go to Apple are the ones who can’t make it at Tesla, Porrit’s experience and position at Tesla certainly indicates otherwise. In fact, Porritt revealed in a 2015 interview that he typically meets with Musk “three or four times a week”, while also adding that the two are “absolutely on the same page.”

Coincidentally (or not), a recent report claimed that Steve Zadesky, the Apple executive believed to be leading Project Titan, left the company earlier this year.

If Zadesky indeed left the company, it would make newly hired Porritt Apple’s most senior “car guy” and a likely candidate to lead the Cupertino company’s electric car initiative. While his expertise could be useful in plenty of hardware engineering roles, he had a focus on vehicle dynamics, vehicle architecture and vehicle packaging throughout his long career.

As for when we might see a legit Apple Car hit the road, some of the more optimistic reports we’ve seen have pointed to a 2019 release. When asked about Apple’s car plans during a shareholders meeting earlier this year, Tim Cook hinted that we probably shouldn’t expect any announcements any time soon.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook employed a bit of wit when an investor asked him today about the long-rumored Apple Car at today’s annual shareholders meeting in Cupertino.

“Do you remember when you were a kid and Christmas Eve was so exciting?” Cook asked rhetorically. “You weren’t sure what was going on downstairs? Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”

Meanwhile, you might recall that Elon Musk, despite the aforementioned swipe at Apple engineers, welcomes Apple’s foray into the EV world.

“I encourage more participation by whoever it is to create electric vehicles,” Musk said in an interview earlier this year. “It’s quite hard to do, but I think companies like Apple will probably make a compelling electric car. It seems like the obvious thing to do.”


A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.