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Tesla hires Apple exec to develop new models

Thursday, 24 Oct 2013 | 4:22 PM ET
Tesla hiring Apple VP Doug Field
Thursday, 24 Oct 2013 | 2:48 PM ET
Tesla has hired Apple's vice president of product design, Doug Field, to lead vehicle development, reports CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

Tesla, a car company that is as much about the tech industry as it is about the auto industry, is hiring an engineer from Apple to lead development. Doug Field, who served as Apple's vice president of Mac hardware engineering, is Tesla's new vice president of vehicle programs.

"Until Tesla came along, I had never seriously considered leaving Apple," Field said in a statement released by Apple.

(Read more: Icahn asks Apple to commence immediate buyback offer)

The hiring is the latest sign that Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk is focused on tech engineering in Tesla models as well as on traditional development of vehicles. That's hardly a surprise, as the Model S has won rave reviews for its incorporation of software and tech features.

(Read more: Tesla plans to add apps, Google Chrome to dashboard)

In announcing Field's hiring, Musk said, "Tesla's future depends on engineers who can create the most innovative, technologically advanced vehicles in the world. Doug's experience in both consumer electronics and traditional automotive makes him an important addition to our leadership team."

Tesla logo on a Model S sedan
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Tesla logo on a Model S sedan

While Field spent the last five years working on Apple's MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iMac, his background includes stints with Ford and Segway. He spent nine years at the latter as vice president of design and engineering, and chief technical officer.

In the late 80s and early 90s, though, Field was a development engineer at Ford.

"I started my career with the goal of creating incredible cars but ultimately left the auto industry in search of fast-paced, exciting engineering challenges elsewhere. As the first high-tech auto company in modern history, Tesla is at last an opportunity for me and many others to pursue the dream of building the best cars in the world," Field said in a statement issued by Apple.

(Read more: Apple now hordes 10 percent of US corporate cash)

His job will include helping Tesla build out a portfolio of vehicles that includes the Model S available now; a Model X CUV scheduled to go on sale in late 2014; and a mass market, lower-priced electric that Tesla plans to sell by the end of 2017.

Shares of Apple rose late in the day on news of the Field hiring.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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