Apple Inc. has brought back a former senior executive to lead its Project Titan electric car initiative, according to people familiar with the matter.
Bob Mansfield, previously a top executive under former chief executive Steve Jobs, will be running the company’s secret autonomous, plug-in electrified, vehicle project. Mansfield is known for having lead the hardware engineering development of products including the MacBook Air laptop computer, the iMac desktop computer, and the iPad tablet.
Mansfield had been an adviser to Apple since leaving the company executive team in 2013. Apple said Mansfield was going to work with Apple on special projects and report to CEO Tim Cook. One of the projects, the Apple Watch, was introduced last year.
Earlier this month, Apple employees noticed in the company directory that all the senior managers on the car project were now reporting to Mansfield, according to people familiar with the matter. Applied declined to comment on personnel matters, and Mansfield didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
Project Titan has been shrouded in mystery since first being revealed in a Wall Street Journal article last year. Apple has never acknowledged publicly that it is working on a car.
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Earlier this year, Steve Zadesky, who was assigned to head the project, left the company citing personal reasons, people close to the company said then. Apple has hundreds of employees working on the project, sources have said. It has hired several veterans from the automobile industry, as well as experts in battery technology and autonomous driving.
Technology news site The Information reported last week that Apple had pushed back the target launch to 2021, although it isn’t clear whether this is a target that Mansfield has approved. One person familiar with Mansfield cautioned that his involvement isn’t necessarily a sign that the car project is ready to move forward at an accelerated rate, noting that he has killed projects in the past.
Project Titan is one of several long-term initiatives Apple has taken on to determine its future growth, as the technology giant sees a sales slowdown with its flagship product, the iPhone. Apple is competing with Silicon Valley neighbors, including Google, to play a leading role in the future of automotive technologies and mobility services. Apple reinforced that commitment in May with its $1 billion investment in Chinese ridesharing giant, and Uber-competitor, Didi.