Personnel moves within tech companies rarely rate a blip on the radar if all you're interested in is the finished product. But if you're pulling for Apple to turn its rumored electric car into reality, reports that long-time executive Bob Mansfield is now in the driver seat could mean the project has a chance of getting out of first gear.
The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Mansfield is now heading Project Titan, Apple's long-rumored though far from official effort to build its own self-driving car. The Journal says all senior managers involved in Project Titan have been reporting to Mansfield, who left Apple's executive team in 2013 after a 15-year stint at Apple.
Up until now, Apple's electric car efforts have hit more than their share of bumps in the road. Earlier this year, Daimler and BMW had walked away from talks to develop the car with Apple, while former project head Steve Zadesky reportedly departed Apple in January.
Mansfield's return to Apple could be a sign that the company is stepping up its automotive efforts. If you're not familiar with Mansfield's name, you surely know his work. As the leader of hardware engineering at the company, Mansfield oversaw the development of the MacBook and iMac. Later, as his duties expanded to cover all hardware coming out of Cupertino, he oversaw the engineering work on the iPad. Staying on as adviser to CEO Tim Cook, Mansfield also was reportedly involved in the Apple Watch project.
It was Mansfield who joined Cook and Steve Jobs on stage at the 2010 press conference following the iPhone 4's rocky launch. That phone suffered from weak reception tied to its antenna, and Mansfield was promoted to oversee engineering efforts throughout the company, and it solidified Mansfield's reputation in Cupertino as someone who could navigate the company through product development challenges.
And that's what Apple needs as it eyes entering an entirely new market with its Project Titan efforts. Apple had originally targeted 2019 for the launch of its car, according to a report earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal. A report in The Information now puts that internal target at 2021.
Which is another of way of saying not to clear out space in the garage just yet for that Apple Car. The Journal report on Mansfield's new role notes that the Apple veteran has killed projects, too. But Mansfield's track record with the company suggests that Apple believes if anyone can help it deliver a self-driving car within the next half-decade, he's the person to do it.