Revealed: The experts Apple hired to build an electric car


In the last few weeks we’ve heard about a poaching war between Apple and Tesla, a couple hires by Apple from the auto industry, and a whole lot of speculation followed by reports that Apple has a team of hundreds working on an electric vehicle. But who exactly is working on the project at Apple?

We can learn a lot about the scope of the research Apple is doing from the talent on the team, so we’ve talked to our sources and compiled a list of some key employees Apple has hired and assigned to the project. 

A couple things we learn from the hires: Evident by this long list of automotive experts, it’s clear Apple’s ambitions go well beyond just its iOS-based CarPlay in-dash system. Well beyond software too, as many of the names below are hardware engineers coming from Tesla, Ford and other notable automotive related areas. In fact, the majority of employees on this list that are reporting to team leader Steve Zadesky come from an automotive hardware background and many only joined Apple recently or around the time Cook reportedly approved the electric car project. 

Steve Zadesky’s group. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple had a team of hundreds working on the electric vehicle project led by product design Vice President and former Ford executive, Steve Zadesky. One of the hires revealed last week was former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Johann Jungwirth, but here are some of the other key team members picked from within the company and hired from outside to join the team:

Robert-Gough-AppleRobert Gough (new hire). One of Apple’s most recent hires for the team joined the company in January 2015 from Autoliv, a company designing safety systems including everything from airbags to seatbelts to radar and night vision systems. Robert Gough previously led “the design and delivery of Autoliv’s active safety technologies into the global automotive industry,” according to his LinkedIn page. 

David-Nelson-Apple-01David Nelson (new hire). David Nelson is another former Tesla Motors engineer that just left the company this month and now on Zadesky’s team. According to Nelson via Linkedin, at Tesla he served as a mechanical engineering manager leading a team “responsible for modeling, prediction, and verification of motor and gearbox performance and efficiency.” He also “tackled high profile reliability and warranty projects” at Tesla before joining Apple. 

Pete Augenbergs. Another team member is product design manager Pete Augenbergs who originally joined Apple from Tesla. Augenbergs, who is now working under Zadesky, joined Apple in March 2008 after spending a little over two years as a mechanical engineer at Tesla. The report from the WSJ noted that Zadesky had been given permission to create up to a 1,000 person team for the project poaching employees from both within the company and elsewhere. Augenbergs, along with several other employees on this list, were picked for the project from within the company, while several others are newer hires.

Hugh-Jay-Apple-01Hugh Jay (new hire). Previously a transmission and mechanical design engineer at EMCO Gears, a company specializing in selling transmissions, axle systems, and other products into automotive and other industries. Among Jay’s work at EMCO before joining Apple’s vehicle team: the design of a closed-loop electro-pneumatic gear shift system (Paddle Shifting) and work on “the entire product lifecycle of “2 motorsports transmissions, 27 commercial gearboxes, and various aerospace/defense products, an output almost double that of more senior engineer.”

John-Ireland-Apple-01John Ireland (new hire). Previously a senior power train test engineer at Tesla since October 2013, Ireland recently joined the company and is currently working on the car project. Before Tesla, Ireland worked as a research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory working on battery technologies and improvements to energy storage.

Mujeeb Ijaz (new hire). An interesting new hire working on the project under Zadesky is Mujeeb Ijaz from A123 Systems Inc, a company that develops advanced Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate batteries and energy storage systems, according to its website. Its products include batteries and energy storage solutions for electric and hybrid vehicles as well as other industries. Ijaz served in several roles at the company including CTO, VP of its Cell Products Group, and Director of Automotive before recently joining Apple. Before that he served as Manager of Electric and Fuel Cell Vehicle Engineering at Ford for 15 years.

On a related note: A123 Systems Inc just launched an unfair competition lawsuit claiming that Apple poached its employees to develop a “large scale battery division.” The lawsuit claimed other employees including Don Dafoe, Michael Erickson, Depeng Wang, and Indrajeet Thorat also recently left the company with a little help from Ijaz, but it’s unclear if they have all joined Apple.

Rui-Guan-Apple-01Rui Guan (new hire). Before joining Apple in October 2014 as a hardware engineer, (around the time Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly approved the new vehicle project), Guan was a Drive Train Engineer at Ogin Inc, a company building wind turbines and other clean energy solutions. Before that he served as an Electromagnetic Design Engineer at Vestas, another company building and selling wind turbines.

Al Golko. iPhone & iPod Product Development Engineering Manager. Joined Apple in June 2009. Previously worked at Motorola. Golko has been working on iOS devices up until now, but is currently under Zadesky who is said to be leading the research into vehicles. Golko has been listed on a few Apple patents over the years—mostly related to iOS devices including patents for iPhone related technologies and patents covering Apple Watch-like wearables more recently.

DAVID-PERNER-01David Perner (new hire). Another former Ford engineer on the list is David Perner who previously spent 4 years with the company as a product engineer working on Hybrid electric vehicle systems. At Ford, Perner worked on “hybrid vehicle calibration, new vehicle launch, design and release, and research.” Among his work at Ford on hybrid vehicles, Perner helped accelerate “adoption of new transmission for Ford’s upcoming Hybrid F-150 by improving existing fuel economy models,” according to his LinkedIn.

Jim-Cuseo-Apple-01Jim Cuseo. At Apple since 2010 as a product design lead and product design manager working on the iMac and more recently managing a “growing team of >10 direct and matrix reports in the design, development and implementation of a future Apple product line.”  Cuseo, however, is uniquely experienced to work on the vehicle project having served as Chief Powertrain Engineer at MIT Motorosports, Research and Advanced Development Engineer at Ford, and an engineer at MagCanica designing electromechanical torque sensor systems.

Fernando Cunha (new hire). Another member of Zadesky’s team is Fernando Cunha. Update: The Fernando Cunha working at Apple is apparently not the Product Design Supervisor of the same name at General Motors.

Lauren-Ciminera-AppleLauren Ciminera (new hire). Joining Apple back in September, Lauren Ciminera is likely playing a role in recruiting employees for Apple’s project after leaving a position as Tesla’s Lead Recruiter to join the company. Before joining Apple, Ciminera was responsible for hiring manufacturing and mechanical engineers globally at Tesla.

Sawyer Cohen. Previously a Controls Engineer at Concept Systems before joining Apple as a mechanical engineer for the iPhone in 2010, Cohen is one of many iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac engineers on Zadesky’s team potentially contributing to the vehicle project.

Phil Hobson. A senior product design engineer at Apple since joining the company from Tapwave in 2004, Hobson lists his previous work as a “Lead designer engineer for various iPod products including, but not limited to, the iPhone and HiFi.” Working on those products, Hobson was responsible for “tooling, product manufacture and assembly through production ramp.”

Brian Lynch. Director of iPod product design at Apple since 2009 with the company since 2000, Lynch is another employee working under Zadesky.

Kurt Stiehl. At the company since 2007, Stiehl worked in iOS Accessory Product Design for 5 years before moving to Product Design Manager in 2012.

Dillon Thomasson (new hire). Lead Design Engineer at General Dynamics Dillion Thomasson has recently made his way to Apple and Zadesky’s team after spending eight years at his prior company that specializes in aerospace and defense products. It’s unclear exactly when Thomasson joined the team, but he’s currently working under Zadesky and like many other team members uniquely experienced to work on the vehicle project.

Another notable new hire is Sebastien Marineau. Apple picked up the former BlackBerry exec who for most of his time at the company was an SVP in various roles working on the company’s QNX software systems. That includes the QNX car platform that many vehicle manufacturers are still using and therefore the platform Apple’s CarPlay is built on top of. He joined Apple in June 2014 as VP Core OS and is a likely candidate for the car project.

In addition to the several notable hires from Tesla on the list, the hiring of Mujeeb Ijaz and claims that Apple is poaching A123 employees for a large scale battery operation would seem to corroborate reports that Apple is researching building a vehicle rather than just getting its software platform on the road. The scope of Apple’s new hires goes well past the level of expertise needed to provide one or two components for a vehicle, and when combined with the increasingly public testing of camera-equipped vehicles, it’s clear that Apple’s ambitions now extend well beyond CarPlay.

Mark Gurman contributed to this report.

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  1. Taste_of_Apple - 8 years ago

    Great piece as usual. Definitely some insanely interesting hires. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. At the very least they are trying to see what they can create – still, I can’t see this being a near term completed project. I’d guesstimate 2-5 years before we see any product. Perhaps, given their vast amounts of money and with more employees they can do it sooner. I just hope that whatever comes of this is still built to be better rather than to boost stock prices and create a new stream of revenue. Judging by this past year, including Apple Watch, they’ll be creating something very special.

    • Considering this group was started a year ago – I’d say it was at the very least 3 years out. Even if we consider the fact that Tesla has released all their IP and patents into the public domain it’s mainly the software that will take the longest time to develop.

  2. rettun1 - 8 years ago

    Hopefully they are all A-players, they seem rather impressive though

  3. I just think they should spend time on iPhone’s battery; make it better, please.

    • irelandjnr - 8 years ago

      What version iPhone are you using?

    • macxpress - 8 years ago

      There’s nothing wrong with the iPhone’s battery. If you’re having issues with battery life then check your apps and stop blaming Apple for poorly created apps.

    • Turn of apps from FaceBook especially. Those apps are total ****. Battery life on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is outstanding.

      • * off (close, delete, whatever)

      • slowawake - 8 years ago

        check out your app’s battery usage, and for those using it up turn off background refresh for them (hint: it is Facebook)

    • orthorim - 8 years ago

      Since the 6/6+ there are no longer battery issues. Battery life is stellar – well at least compared to all the iPhones before.

  4. rogifan - 8 years ago

    Who does Zadesky report to? According to The Official Board websit it’s Jony Ive but how accurate is that site?

  5. Gazoo Bee - 8 years ago

    Well, at least there is ONE woman.

    • orthorim - 8 years ago

      I think you should maybe visit a mechanical engineering lecture – any lecture, any uni. You’ll see the explanation for this right there. Computer Science was perhaps 90% male when I was studying, but engineering was one of the few branches of study even more lopsided.

  6. kylem1701 (@Gray_Sebben) - 8 years ago

    Wow! Not a single single woman in a technical position. Jesus, screw Apple, and screw the tech industry in general. This is beyond “best person for the job” meritocracy bullcrap. This is just pure misogyny.

    • irelandjnr - 8 years ago

      Jesus Christ it’s automotive engineering. It’s not Apple that is sexist, it’s that it’s mainly men who are choosing to be automotive engineers. There is no conspiracy here.

      • kylem1701 (@Gray_Sebben) - 8 years ago

        Blah blah blah! Girls don’t like cars! Unless they’re pink! It’s men’s work!

      • Gazoo Bee - 8 years ago

        @ irelandjr: It doesn’t really matter how hard it would be to find a good female candidate, the fact is it still needs to be done.

        Making a car that fully half of the population have no input into is a really bad idea. Men and women don’t have the same needs and expectations. To design a product that only appeals to men would be foolish.

        For instance, one of the very reasons Tesla exists, is because *most* men don’t find electric cars are appealing because they “don’t have enough horsepower,” even though they have more than enough power to get where they need to go. Men have expectations that their cars will have the ability to tear down the freeway at record speed, because this is how they impress their friends and feed their need for “glory” or whatever. Women generally don’t give a crap about that and just want a functioning, easy to drive car that always works and gets the job done.

        That’s why Tesla is popular with a certain (mostly male) demographic right now. It’s a “performance” car that can stand shoulder to shoulder with other performance cars while still being electric. In other words, it’s a “driving man’s idea” (emphasis on the “man”), of what an electric car should be. This formula will not work for *all* electric cars though and isn’t sustainable as a mainstream design because it wastes so much power.

        Apple would be foolish to leave women out of the design process, although it could happen as Apple is actually *least* progressive on this very issue. They have a big “older white male” problem at Apple as they do at most tech companies.

      • mdelvecchio99 - 8 years ago

        @gazoo – And yet Apple sells millions and millions of products to women every single day. Maybe their design overly-male design aesthetic isn’t as big a problem as you think it is?

      • Jon DeMuria - 8 years ago

        Gazboo you are generalizing men pretty heavily there… Also you can’t just hire a woman if she isn’t qualified, we are talking about a self driving electric car that can kill people instantly if engineered incorrectly. The level of engineering expertise needed is truly amazing, hundreds of times more than a computer or iPhone, considering there are thousands of moving parts.

        I’m sure that women will be playing an active role in many aspects of the design, the marketing, and the numerous other segments where less technical expertise is needed. Of course a woman could be just as good of an automotive engineer, there just honestly isn’t many out there, and its definitely a field where you either know what your doing or you absolutely cannot do it.

    • johnmfoley (@johnmfoley) - 8 years ago

      Apple is hiring who is available on the market. We know the tech industry has had a problem putting women into technical positions. It would make sense (while slightly disappointing) that Apple’s experienced hires are all men.

      NOW hopefully what they are doing is hiring women out of college or younger workers and putting them in positions on the team to succeed and become experts in this field. Apple can support develop women into these positions but can’t hire them out of nowhere. It’s a team of 100+ people–these are just some of the experts they brought in. This could be valid criticism, but I think it should be a challenge or question put up to Apple on what the full composition of the team looks like and not this full-force attack.

    • o0smoothies0o - 8 years ago

      I don’t see any black people either, oh no!! They must be racist!! It definitely means they are racists and misogynists! Science!

    • daddy1969 - 8 years ago

      Companies (including automotive) don’t avoid hiring female engineers. The reason you don’t see many female engineers is because there aren’t as many, in comparison to the males. Don’t believe me? Go to any college with an accredited engineering program and walk into a lecture hall of a 300 level class. If 10% of the class is female, then that’s a lot of females in that engineering class.

      What do you want Apple to do, fill positions with people who have the most skill in the area needed or just make sure that 50% are male and the other 50% are female.

      It’s not the companies or the colleges that don’t hire or enroll women in engineering. Our society has a problem with not getting girls excited about science and math in grades K-12

  7. philboogie - 8 years ago

    Outstanding article Jordan, props to you.

  8. It’s all telematics, not steering wheels, I think.

  9. 10basetom - 8 years ago

    Let’s not forget about the Austrian guy in the secretive Design Studio who used to design Lamborghinis.

  10. Great article. As I said previously, two of my most favourite companies in the world are Apple and Tesla so for me it’s interesting to watch this.

  11. Craig Doran (@Sigma902) - 8 years ago

    No wonder the new Apple building is in the shape of a test track!

    • nsxrebel - 8 years ago

      If that were true, then it wouldn’t be a proper test track unless they plan on running NASCRAP cars.

      Proper tracks:

      Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

  12. 1sugomac - 8 years ago

    Apple is not entering the automotive industry.
    Apple is entering the transportation industry.
    Big difference.

  13. Well I’m not looking forward to the 3 year extended AppleCare that doesn’t cover liquid damage or broken glass. #sarcasm

  14. dysonlu - 8 years ago

    Are auto manufacturers shaking at their knees or what? I would love to eavesdrop in those meetings full of execs talking about these rumours about Apple’s car.

    • orthorim - 8 years ago

      I don’t think any of these guys is worried. Which is why they’re going to get steamrollered by Tesla, Apple, and perhaps the odd Chinese or Korean electric / autonomous car startup.

  15. jacquesgilbert698 - 8 years ago

    I think automotive engineering skills could apply very well to several things, like robotics. I can imagine an Apple telepresence device, or a robotic assistant much more easily than an Apple car. Domestic robots are a new market, potentially very large, where new products can be created and margins can stay high. It makes a lot more sense than the crowded, low margin automobile market.

  16. Gerard Jeronowitz - 8 years ago

    There’s nothing about the skill set of these people that demands that Apple are creating a “car” as in a passenger motor vehicle fit for highway use.
    wheel chairs and personal robots just off the top of my head.
    Think of the enormity of the Apple Campus 2. Let’s say you, as an architect, allotted a given volume and set of pathways for “intra campus transportation” but had no idea if it was possible to accomplish the system. Who, exactly, would Apple hire to make such a transport system a reality? This group comes to mind.

    Why, you ask, would Apple spend so much money and talent on such a self-serving product? Because they can.

  17. orthorim - 8 years ago

    Great article!

    Keep in mind out of “hundreds” those are the only ones we know about; also not mentioned is the former Lamborghini designer who is now on Ive’s design team – one of the chosen few. I’d say an Apple car is at least 5 years out but they’re doing the right things, entering that industry can’t be done overnight.

  18. When I heard the rumor that Apple was building a car I thought it was totally counter the post-Jobs Apple Way for four reasons. First, designing a car is outside Apple’s core competencies. Second, building a car is TOTALLY outside Apple’s core competencies. Third, selling a car they make is impractical/illegal in almost every, US, market. Finally, a low-margin, high-cost manufacturing enterprise has huge risks and limited upside (car margins, wholesale and retail, are abysmal by Apple standards).

    Well, now we see that Apple has, at least started to add, the competencies. Whether they become core or not remains to be seen. That still doesn’t mean they can design a complete vehicle that lives up to Apple expectations. Even if they do, how do they produce it? The only thing Apple currently makes itself is the, very low-volume, Mac Pro, and even that’s basically just assembly of essentially off-the-shelf components with a few custom pieces. Producing an automobile is an enormous industrial process involving a huge range of custom-made parts along with some standardized components. I don’t see a Foxconn or Pegatron for cars anywhere. Finally, the post-Jobs Apple has no problem farming out it’s production, but they’ve been adamant about controlling their retailing. And for good reason, Apple stores are the highest grossing retail outlets per square foot. As Tesla has learned, it’s difficult, if not illegal, to sell your own cars in the US. To build a product itself, and then let someone else sell it to the public is just plain opposite the way Apple has become the most valuable company in the world. Add to that the fact the product in question is low-margin and comes with a high capital expenditure and you have something Bizarro-Steve Jobs would do.

    • Yes (@AMillah) - 8 years ago

      I remember Steve Jobs said somewhere shortly before he died something like “if I had more energy, I would have loved to take on Detroit with an Apple Car.”

      Yea, totally a crazy post-Jobs mistake that Steve would have never even considered, right?

      These “Steve Jobs would never do this” bullshit is getting tired and old. I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs ambitions had no limits.

      • I’ll agree Steve Jobs had limitless ambitions, but I’d posit that he always tempered his endeavors with reality. Going off what Steve said is always dicey, he was known to embellish, to dissemble, and to be down-right disingenuous. As for those end of life quotes, where’s that TV he “finally cracked”?

        Even going off what he did is hard because he was a man who could change his mind and/or be persuaded (e.g. iPhone native SDK). And no one, Hell not even Steve Jobs, could always know what Steve Jobs would, or would not, do in any given situation. I’m not say he would never build a car, but I find it hard to believe that the guy who killed Apple’s, profitable (albeit barely) and very well-respected, printer division for being outside its core business would approve going into, not only, a new business, but a totally different industry!

        I could very well be totally wrong. All the rumors could be completely spot on and for Model Year 2020 we’ll see an Apple car for sale in Apple Car Stores around the wold. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be totally incongruous with the way Apple has been run since 1997, which was my point all along.

  19. Searching these people up on Apple’s Employee Directory will explain everything on their department (which is a project name) ;D


    why not take the road/EV future by the reigns with Apple’s cash pile to improve development and implementation gradually over time to our roadways with the solar roadway…seems to be beneficial towards climate change and runs parallel with Apple’s “we believe climate change is real” stance.
    Apple’s not the company to jump to endeavors, such as this, but who’s not to think they’ll reach $1trill valuation within 5 years? This could lead to the “driverless” car and see huge ROIs down the road financially and environmentally…They have the brand power to recruit the thinkers and doers to develop a sound strategy for this immense 10-20 project.
    All the while, Elon is colonizing us to space… mind you, apple will negatively correlate bc that’s just the market trend/product deliverable pattern…unless apple watch hoist them to 175/share this year alone, i still see a declination with no “wow” phone set to be delivered this year.

    I’m speaking very lightly on what needs to be considered but proper analysis will recognize how widely the benefits of this can sink the cons.


    why not take the road/EV future by the reigns with Apple’s cash pile to improve development and implementation gradually over time to our roadways with the solar roadway…seems to be beneficial towards climate change and runs parallel with Apple’s “we believe climate change is real” stance.
    Apple’s not the company to jump to endeavors, such as this, but who’s not to think they’ll reach $1trill valuation within 5 years? This could lead to the “driverless” car and see huge ROIs down the road financially and environmentally…They have the brand power to recruit the thinkers and doers to develop a sound strategy for this immense 10-20 project.
    All the while, Elon is colonizing us to space… mind you, apple will negatively correlate bc that’s just the market trend/product deliverable pattern…unless apple watch hoist them to 175/share this year alone, i still see a declination with no “wow” phone set to be delivered this year.

    I’m speaking very lightly on what needs to be considered but proper analysis will recognize how widely the benefits of this can sink the cons.

  22. Apple car….no thanks

  23. Graham J - 7 years ago

    And now they’ve set up an office right next to QNX in Ottawa and hired away tons of their engineers.


Avatar for Jordan Kahn 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.