Sep 7, 2021 - Technology

Ford nabs Apple Car exec in hiring coup

Illustration of a glowing motherboard connections in the shape of a car

Outline of a car. Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ford Motor Co. poached a senior Apple executive, Doug Field, to lead efforts to make its vehicles as smart and indispensable as the iPhone.

Why it matters: Legacy automakers like Ford need Silicon Valley's software prowess as they try to navigate a historic industrywide transformation. The electric, connected and automated cars of the future will be defined by software in the cloud — not the mechanical parts under the hood.

The intrigue: The hiring was seen as a coup for Ford and a blow to Apple, where Field had been a key player on the iPhone maker’s secret car project.

  • Rumors about the so-called Project Titan have swirled for years, but Apple has said little about the status of its automotive ambitions.
  • Field wouldn't touch the topic during a briefing with reporters.
  • "Apple doesn’t talk about new products, and I won’t talk about it either," he said. "Apple works on a lot of great things in total secrecy."

Details: In his new role, Field will be chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer, reporting to Ford President and CEO Jim Farley.

  • He will lead the development of a new cloud-based, connected-vehicle platform called Blue Oval Intelligence.
  • It will enable customers to continually update their cars with new features — as they do their phones — or to fix warranty problems without visiting a dealership.
  • And it will help create new revenue opportunities for Ford through cloud-based services that consumers want.

Background: Field is a boomerang Ford employee, having started his career there in 1987.

  • His career includes engineering responsibility for some of the world's most iconic products: the Segway scooter, Apple’s Mac computer hardware, and Tesla's Model 3.

What they're saying: "This is a watershed moment for our company — Doug has accomplished so much,” Farley told reporters. “This is just a monumental moment in time that we have now to really remake a 118-year-old company.”

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