Sept. 7 (Reuters) – Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) auto project leader Doug Field will work for Ford Motor Co (FN) to lead the automaker’s advanced technology and embedded systems efforts, a hiring coup for Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley.
Field was most recently Vice President of Special Projects at Apple and previously Senior Vice President, Engineering at Tesla
In his new role, Field will report to Farley, who is responsible for software and connectivity strategies, and will work with Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, said Ford. Thai-Tang oversees the development and design of automobiles and trucks as well as supply chain and other operations, Ford said Tuesday.
The hiring of Field and the management structure tailored to him underline the increasing importance of software and digital connectivity in the automotive industry.
“This is a turning point for our company,” Farley said when reporters called.
Since taking over as Ford CEO last October, Farley has emphasized the importance of developing stronger digital services and connections to generate steady revenue from home and business customers.
“The entire customer experience of the future will be through the embedded system,” said Farley.
He compared the auto industry to the cell phone industry when the first iPhone was introduced, and customers saw that a phone can do a lot more than just make a voice call.
Field’s move to Ford was first reported by Bloomberg.
It wasn’t clear what Field’s decision to leave Apple would mean for the iPhone maker’s efforts to create a vehicle for its brand.
Industry circles told Reuters last year that Apple plans to launch an electric car with advanced battery technology by 2024.
However, Apple has not announced any specific plans since then. Meanwhile, the field of startups and established automakers chasing Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) in China, the US and Europe has only grown with investments in the billions.
Field said Tuesday he won’t talk about his job at Apple.
Apple said in a statement, “We are grateful for the contributions Doug has made to Apple and we wish him all the best for this next chapter.”
Field will now rise to the challenge of constructively combining the Silicon Valley software culture and the auto industry mindset that has frustrated many other executives at established automakers and tech startups, including Tesla.
Field said he plans to keep homes in Silicon Valley and Michigan for better access to talent and technology in the tech sector.
In developing a new digital platform for Ford’s future vehicles, Field said he was open to partnering with technology partners, but “we need to control the experience we give our customers and we need to be in control of our fate.”
Reporting by Joseph White in Detroit and Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Dan Grebler
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.