Even as Apple refuses to acknowledge that it's working on an electric car, the technology firm continues to pluck executives from the auto industry. Now, one of the company's most recent hires is raising eyebrows not only because of his ties to the automotive world, but because of his bumpy tenure while at Fiat Chrysler.
Doug Betts, who served as the head of quality for the automaker until late last year, joined Apple's operations team a few months ago, according to an update to his LinkedIn profile. The Wall Street Journal first reported the update on Monday, though his profile was listed as "not found" on Tuesday.
It's unclear if Betts will work on Apple's secretive auto development program or in some other capacity at the company. Apple declined to comment.
Betts had a long—and at times bumpy—career while overseeing quality for FCA from 2009 through October 2014, during which time Chrysler struggled to improve the quality and reliability of its vehicles. Throughout his tenure Chrysler more than once ranked near the bottom of all auto brands in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study.
Just before Betts left the company to pursue personal interests, the automaker was hammered by Consumer Reports in its annual auto reliability survey. In that report, the Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat brands were the four lowest-ranked brands.
Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, said he wouldn't attribute Chrysler's low ratings to Betts, adding it's a "cheap comment" to say Apple hired a guy who doesn't understand how to improve a vehicle's quality.
"Chrysler was doing so much work changing platforms and making other moves that it's not fair to blame everything that happened on him," Fisher said.
"Apple hiring Doug doesn't surprise me. He's an auto executive to watch," he said.
Over the last year Apple has hired a number of former executives from the auto industry. They include Johann Jungwirth, who was previously in charge of Mercedes-Benz's autonomous drive research and development program in Silicon Valley.
At this year's Code conference, Apple executive Jeff Williams was asked about the tech giant's work on developing a car.
"The car is the ultimate mobile device, isn't it?" he said, while dodging a question on the subject. "We explore all kinds of categories, and we'll certainly continue to look at those and figure out which ones are ones where we think we can make a huge difference."
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