Ford taps ex-Apple exec to head software, hardware development


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Ford has hired Apple’s ex-vice president of services, Peter Stern, to lead the development of new technologies and services that improve the customer experience.

Stern, who announced his departure from Apple in January, will head the Ford Integrated Services team. The unit is a recent creation at the brand and will work to scale new software and hardware products across its operations. The new appointee will also manage the Ford Next venture studio, a project created by company CEO Jim Farley to launch forward-thinking business divisions, such as the automaker’s autonomous vehicle program. Ford Next was formerly headed by Franck Louis-Victor, who was arrested earlier this year after a domestic dispute. Although the executive has yet to be formally dismissed, he remains on leave, despite the felony charges brought against being dismissed. Stern will also oversee services marketing and “out-of-vehicle” innovations, an undertaking that could produce technology such as a vehicle camera that can detect bears while the driver is on a camping trip, according to a representative of the car manufacturer.

The new Ford appointment comes amidst a paradigm shift in the automotive industry. Having seen the success of disruptors such as Tesla, who present themselves as tech startups rather than traditional automakers, more OEMs are looking to shed their “outdated” business model and break into the technology sector. Such a transition has more than enough incentive to bring car manufacturers on board: companies stand to significantly increase their revenues through paid subscriptions for software and hardware. The ability to lock some services behind a paywall means that automakers could also streamline their production lines and save money by building just one trim and using after-purchase payments to cover the costs of the hardware. The acquisition of a former Apple executive, particularly Stern, is evidence that Ford is looking to take advantage of these benefits. During his time at Apple, Stern was heavily involved in the company’s subscription-based businesses, including Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple Books, News+ and Fitness+. While drivers feel less enthusiastic about…