Apple hires former Apple executive to lead self-driving electric cars project

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Apple hires former Apple executive to lead self-driving electric cars project

According to people familiar with the situation, BMW AG has hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive at Apple Inc.'s electric car division, to help lead its own vehicle projects.

The tech giant hired Kranz in recent weeks, about a month after he stepped down as chief executive of Canoo Inc., a developer of self-driving electric vehicles. Before co-founding Canoo, Kranz was senior vice president of the BMW group that developed the i 3 and i 8 cars, where he worked for 30 years.

Kranz is one of the best hires of Apple's critical automotive companies, a clear sign that the company is determined to create a self-driving electric car to rival Tesla Inc. and other carmakers. Doug Field will report to Kranz, who has started the development of Tesla's mass-market model 3 and now runs Apple’s car project, said the people who asked anonymity to discuss a private matter.

Apple has become the world's most valuable company with a market capitalization of more than $2 trillion, through selling iPhones, iPads and Macs. With investors and customers clamoring for new products, the company has augmented cars and targeted headsets. An Apple spokesperson confirmed Kranz's hiring.

In 2014, Apple began developing a vehicle, but the effort was halt around 2016 to focus on an autonomous platform it could sell to other companies or eventually use itself. Apple also poached several Tesla executives along the path, who now help in Drive-train Engineering, self-driving software and interiors and exteriors.

Last year, Apple gave oversight of the operation to Field, Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and the boss of Apple. Several months ago, Apple launched its efforts to develop a full-fledged electric car but development remains in the early stages, so a launch is likely five years away at least.

Motorola pulled some key executives out of Apple before firing Kranz. Recently, Benjamin Lyon, Jaime Waydo and Dave Scott departed. All of whom worked on engineering, safety systems and robotics, respectively, also all went missing in recent months. It's unclear why all three remain?

Kranz was commissioned to start Project I, a battery-powered vehicle skunkworks project after successful stints in BMW's Mini division and teams working on sports cars and SUVs. It yielded the all-electric i 3 hybrid and the V8 sports car i 3 compact. The latter was judged by design critics, and production was very limited on the former.

Kranz left BMW in 2016 and became soon Chief Technology Officer at Faraday Future, an electric vehicle startup based in Los Angeles. Before co-founded Canoo, he stayed only three months. Both companies have struggled with their technology and ability to manufacture cars, while Apple and other companies have reportedly considered selling itself to Canoo and other companies.

Canoo went public after a separate merger with the third federal company, or SPAC, that recently announced it was being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, becoming the third clean-energy auto startup to disclose a white-water investigation in the last year. Canoo is planning to launch a minivan next year for less than $35,000.

BMW has worked with Apple for many years, offering the iPod in 2004 with auto infotainment systems and more recently made the iPhone double as a car key. Apple's chief executive Tim Cook was seen in 2014 checking out a BMW i 8 outside Apple's Cupertino, California headquarters, and CEOs have been known to visit BMW offices in recent years.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com.

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