Washington, DC (CNN)Apple (AAPL) has brought on a 30-year veteran of BMW as it appears to move forward with its long-rumored car project.
Ulrich Kranz, a former executive at BMW who steered its electric car efforts, has been hired by Apple, a spokesman confirmed Friday. The news was first reported by Bloomberg.Kranz led the development of BMW’s i3, an electric car that debuted in 2013 and has a carbon fiber frame, an unusual feature for a vehicle that isn’t an especially expensive, high-end car. He left BMW in 2016.
Most recently, Kranz resigned this April as CEO of Canoo, a Los Angeles electric vehicle startup that expects to launch a consumer vehicle next year. Before Canoo he worked briefly at another electric vehicle startup, Faraday Future.
Kranz’s addition seems to reflect that Apple remains serious about its car project, despite reports of apparent setbacks. Earlier this year, there were reports of Hyundai and Kia manufacturing a vehicle for Apple, but those automakers later said they weren’t in talks with Apple.Read MoreApple, which is notoriously secretive, hasn’t publicly acknowledged its efforts to develop electric and autonomous vehicles, and the company declined to comment for this story, aside from confirming Kranz’s hire. But there are many indications that Apple is interested in rethinking the vehicle.Apple acquired Drive.ai, a self-driving car startup in 2019, and has a permit to operate autonomous vehicles in California. It also has a patent for a virtual reality system to address motion sickness in cars, and a patent for adjusting how dark a window is tinted, in real time.Apple’s efforts appear to have gone through ups and downs, including reportedly laying off hundreds of employees on the project in 2019. Apple’s “special projects group” is led by Vice President Doug Field, who previously worked at Tesla, Ford, and was the lead engineer for the Segway.The auto industry is shifting from traditional internal combustion powered engines to electric motors, which has created the opportunity for new players to compete with incumbents like Ford, GM and Toyota. Electric vehicle excitement in the last year has helped make Tesla the world’s most valuable automaker.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed earlier this year that he once reached out to Apple CEO Tim Cook about acquiring Tesla, but Cook wasn’t interested. Apple did not comment on Musk’s claim at the time.