Apple has hired former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Johann Jungwirth to join the company as Director of Mac Systems Engineering. The hire was confirmed by Jungwirth’s LinkedIn page, and first noted by a report in the Financial Times detailing Apple’s recent hires in the automotive industry and secretive new automotive research lab.

The report claims Apple’s automotive hires are for a new research lab where “experienced managers from its iPhone unit, are researching automotive products.”

The Apple research lab was set up late last year, not long after Apple unveiled its forthcoming smart watch and latest iPhones, which suggests that any resulting product may still be years away from release. Apple often investigates a wide range of new product areas, some of which never get released.

The hire follows much speculation on what Apple might have planned in the automotive space. Reports in recent weeks detailed an employee poaching war between Apple and Tesla and unsubstantiated reports that Apple had plans to build vehicles of its own. Apple is of course already quite involved in integrating products into vehicles, primarily through its CarPlay platform and partnerships with the majority of major car companies.

Jungwirth led Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America since March 2009 before joining Apple’s Mac team in September of last year. Doug Field, an Apple VP of Design and later Mac Hardware Engineering, notably left the company in 2013 to join Tesla.

The Financial Times mirrors other recent reports regarding Apple’s recent hires adding that “Sir Jonathan Ive’s team of Apple designers has held regular meetings with automotive executives and creators in recent months, in some cases trying to hire them.” It’s unclear whether Apple is actually pursuing an automotive venture on its own, or hiring experts to help with future Mac-based in-car computer systems.

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About the Author

Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.