Who’s Building Apple’s Electric Car?


Source: Peter Kneffel/AFP/Getty Images

We’ve all heard the increasingly interesting rumors and reports that Apple is working on an electric car. With those rumors come all kinds of interesting questions: What will the car look like? Will it be a driverless vehicle? What kinds of software and service will it integrate? And who’s building Apple’s electric car?

We already know that Apple has hired people like former head of Mercedes-Benz’s research lab Johann Jungwirth, a number of former Tesla employees, and former Ford executive Steve Zadesky, who according to The Wall Street Journal was given permission to create a 1,000-person team and to poach employees from different parts of the company. But how many people are now on Apple’s electric car team? Who are they, and where did they come from?

Quartz’s Max Nisen sought to answer that question by combing through LinkedIn data. Though Nisen notes that the data comes with caveats — it tends to double-count people, it may include people hired a long time ago, and it relies on LinkedIn users’ unverified accounts of where they work and have worked in the past — it represents a “rough guide” to where the company is hiring from.

Investigating the number of Apple hires who previously worked at battery companies, Quartz found 43 from Toshiba, 41 from Panasonic, 35 from Johnson Controls, 8 from A123 systems (which focuses on electric cars), and 6 from Samsung SDI. And on the auto company side, former Ford and GM employees lead, with 89 and 88 Apple hires, respectively. Tesla follows at 47, Toyota at 25, Nissan at 15, and Daimler AG at 13.

9to5Mac took the investigation into who’s building the Apple car a step further. Jordan Kahn and Mark Gurman spoke to their sources and compiled a list of the key employees whom Apple has hired or assigned to the project. As per their assessment, what they found out makes it clear that Apple’s car-related ambitions go far beyond its iOS-based CarPlay system or any other software solution. The majority of the employees on 9to5Mac’s list come from an automotive hardware background, and many joined Apple only recently or around the time that Tim Cook reportedly approved the electric car project.

Kahn reports that the several notable Tesla hires on the list, combined with the hiring of Mujeeb Ijaz from A123 and A123’s filing of an unfair competition lawsuit that claims that Apple is poaching employees to build a large-scale battery operation, seem to corroborate recent reports that Apple intends to build a vehicle, rather than just a software platform. The scope of Apple’s new hires extends well beyond what would be necessary to provide one or two components for a vehicle, making it clear that the company’s plans go far beyond CarPlay. Here are some of the key hires, chosen from within Apple or hired from outside the company, on Zadesky’s team.

Robert Gough joined Apple in January 2015 from Autoliv, a company that designs safety systems comprised of everything from airbags to seatbelts to radar to night vision systems. According to his LinkedIn page, Gough led “the design and delivery of Autoliv’s active safety technologies into the global automotive industry.”

David Nelson is a former Tesla engineer who just left Tesla in February 2015. He served as a mechanical engineering manager and led a team that was “responsible for modeling, prediction, and verification of motor and gearbox performance and efficiency.” He also tackled reliability and warranty projects while at Tesla.

Pete Augenbergs joined Apple in March 2008 after spending about two years as a mechanical engineer at Tesla. Augenbergs is now working under Zadesky, and was one of the employees chosen from within Apple for the team, which could eventually include up to 1,000 employees.

Hugh Jay is a former transmission and mechanical design engineer at EMCO Gears, which sells transmissions, axle systems, and other products for aerospace, military, and motorsports markets. At EMCO, Jay worked on a closed-loop electro-pneumatic gear shift system, two motorsports transmissions, and 27 commercial gearboxes.

John Ireland joined Apple after working as a senior power train test engineer at Tesla. Before Tesla, he worked as a research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where he worked on battery technologies and improvements to energy storage.

Mujeeb Ijaz is a former employee of A123, where he served in several roles, including CTO, VP of its cell products group, and director of automotive. Before working at A123, he served as manager of electric and fuel cell vehicle engineering at Ford for 15 years.

Rui Guan joined Apple in October 2014 as a hardware engineer, around the same time that Cook allegedly approved the car project. Guan was formerly a drive train engineer at Ogin, a company that builds wind turbines and other clean energy solutions. Before that, he worked as an electromagnetic design engineer Vestas, which also sells wind turbines.

Al Golko is an iPhone and iPod product development engineering manager who joined Apple in June 2009. He previously worked at Motorola, and had been working on iOS devices but is now working under Zadesky. Golko’s name has been listed on several Apple patents, mostly related to iPhone technologies and Apple Watch-like wearables.

David Perner joined Apple from Ford, where he was a product engineer working on hybrid electric vehicle systems. At Ford, he worked on “hybrid vehicle calibration, new vehicle launch, design and release, and research,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

Jim Cuseo has been a product design lead and product design manager at Apple since 2010. He previously served as chief powertrain engineer at MIT Motorsports, research and advanced development engineer at Ford, and an engineer at MagCanica, where he designed electromechanical torque sensor systems.

Fernando Cunha joined Apple as a new hire for Zadesky’s team, but 9to5Mac learned after publishing its list that “the Fernando Cunha working at Apple is apparently not the Product Design Supervisor of the same name at General Motors.”

Lauren Ciminera joined Apple in September 2014, and is likely recruiting employees for Apple’s car project after leaving her position as Tesla’s lead recruiter. Before joining Apple, Ciminera was responsible for hiring manufacturing and mechanical engineers globally at Tesla.

Sawyer Cohen is a former Concept Systems controls engineer, and joined Apple as a mechanical engineer for the iPhone in 2010. Cohen is one of the many iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac engineers on Zadesky’s team to contribute to the vehicle project.

Phil Hobson joined Apple from Tapwave in 2004 and has been a senior product design engineer since. He has been a “Lead designer engineer for various iPod products including, but not limited to, the iPhone and HiFi,” and on those products was responsible for “tooling, product manufacture and assembly through production ramp.”

Bryan Lynch has been the director of iPod product design at Apple since 2009, and has been employed by the company since 2000.

Kurt Stiehl joined Apple in 2007 and worked in iOS accessory product design for five years before becoming a product design manager in 2012.

Dillon Thomasson is a former lead design engineer for General Dynamics, which specializes in aerospace and defense products. 9to5Mac characterizes him as a new hire, but says it’s unclear exactly when he joined Zadesky’s team.

Sebastien Marineau joined Apple in June 2014 as vice president of core OS. He was formerly a BlackBerry executive who spent most of his time at the company as an SVP working on the company’s software systems, including the QNX car platform, which many manufacturers still use and on which Apple’s CarPlay is built.

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