In the past year, the company has gone on a hiring spree, bringing in hundreds of engineers and other automotive experts. The latest hire was Chrysler vice-president Doug Betts. He has declined to comment on what he will be doing for Apple, but his prior assignment was a leader of automobile quality assurance for Fiat Chrysler.
Rumors have also surfaced that Apple was in talks with BMW to use its i3 carbon fiber body as the basis for an Apple automobile. Talks began last fall and broke off recently.
Another sign of an automotive-based project was the settlement, in May, of an employment lawsuit from high-tech battery manufacturer A123. Apple was alledged to have poached much of A123’s electric-vehicle battery team, including, most notably, the company's chief technology officer, Mujeeb Ijaz. After 16 years at Ford Motor Company working on electric-vehicle technology, Mr. Ijaz researched advanced lithium-ion batteries for A123 and Formula 1 Racing.
Now there is no proof that all these people are working on the same project, but several news sources have reported that Apple’s Titan project is designing an electric “minivan-like vehicle” that could challenge Tesla Motors’ all-electric products.
Titan might be Apple’s “Next Big Thing” or just an experiment that never gets out of the lab. Rumors have circulated for years that Apple was just about to release a full-fledged television set, but that project has never seen the light of day.
With over $200 billion in cash reserves and a corporate culture that values iterative research until products are “perfect,” it may be quite a while before we see anything concrete from the Titan project.
Elon Musk, for one, welcomes the competition. Tesla's chief executive officer told analysts in May that he hopes Apple will debut an electric vehicle. Of course, these are the early days. Bloomberg News reports that Apple won't wrap up Titan until 2020 at the earliest. Stay Tuned.