Apple and Lamborghini are perhaps two of the world’s best-known brands, and now the latter’s head of chassis and vehicle dynamics has reportedly been poached by the tech giant.
Luigi Taraborrelli has moved from Italy to the San Francisco Bay Area, with Automotive News reporting word from sources he’s joined Apple’s secretive vehicle program.
While seemingly much of the tech giant’s focus has been on electric powertrains and autonomous driving technology, this hire suggests a greater emphasis on driving dynamics and suggests Apple’s first car could be getting closer to launch.
Mr Taraborrelli is a 20-year veteran of Lamborghini, and has been head of vehicle dynamics for 14 years.
While his LinkedIn doesn’t mention the Apple gig, it confirms he left Lamborghini in May.
An Apple spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the hire when contacted by Automotive News – no great surprise, given the company doesn’t publicly acknowledge the program.
A report from Bloomberg said Apple plans to introduce its car around 2025 with an interior design that’ll allow front-seat occupants to turn and face those in the rear seats.
It also reportedly plans to develop a vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals, though this seems unlikely given the amount of effort required, the legislative hurdles, and the little time remaining before that suggested launch date.
Apple’s program, which started in 2014, has also seen some employee turnover of late.
Late last year, Doug Field – formerly Tesla’s senior vice president of engineering – left his post as Apple Special Projects Group VP to become chief officer of electric vehicles and digital systems at Ford.
Artificial intelligence specialist Ian Goodfellow also reportedly left Apple’s vehicle project this year due to objections to the company’s return-to-office policies.
Former Tesla Autopilot engineer CJ Moore left Apple after just seven months for a role at Luminar, though another Autopilot engineer – Stuart Bowers – remains with the company.
Among Apple’s talent pool are engineers that have moved over from Mercedes-Benz, Rivian, Tesla and Volvo, as well as Alphabet’s Waymo autonomous vehicle division, plus designers from Aston Martin, McLaren, Porsche and Tesla.
It recently hired Desi Ujkashevic, a Ford veteran who will reportedly lead Apple’s vehicle safety efforts, as well as Ulrich Kranz, a BMW veteran who lead the i3 development team.
Korea IT News reported earlier this year that Apple had been touring South Korea looking for parts suppliers for its first car, with the goal of selecting suppliers by the end of this year and entering full-scale development.
It’s reportedly zeroing in on South Korean companies with experience in mass production as it looks to establish its supply chain.
Apple is understood to be looking to South Korea for battery suppliers given the fractious US-China relationship, which appears to have scuttled earlier plans to tap Chinese battery company CATL.
The Korean outlet reported Apple has even proposed an equity investment in one of these manufacturers, which it wants to double its production capacity.
Recent reports have also indicated Apple has since had face-to-face talks with Toyota for it to be involved in some capacity, either as a supplier or as a manufacturer, and has also sent an envoy to Japan to meet with battery suppliers like Panasonic.
While Apple has shifted focus to Korea, one Korean company appears to have taken its hat out of the ring.
Hyundai said in 2021 it wouldn’t build Apple’s car as it reportedly had concerns about being a mere contract manufacturer for Apple rather than a strategic partner.
Apple had been seeking a US production hub and had met with Hyundai to discuss building its car at the Kia plant in West Point, Georgia.
Instead, LG’s joint venture with Magna International, LG Magna e-Powertrain, was reportedly firming as the chosen manufacturer for the Apple car.
Magna has previously confirmed it would build vehicles at a plant in North America if it were contracted to do so, while LG and SK Group’s battery arm, SK Innovation, are already operating or have plans to open battery-manufacturing facilities in the US.
Various affiliates of LG Group such as LG Chem are already in Apple’s supply chain which the source says provides reassurance to Apple there won’t be any supply chain issues.
Magna also already builds the electric Jaguar I-Pace.