iPod Co-Creator to Advise Auto Supplier Magna

By Tim Higgins Features Dow Jones Newswires

Tony Fadell, the co-creator of Apple Inc.'s iPod and founder of Alphabet Inc.'s Nest Labs, is joining Magna International Inc.'s tech advisory council as the Canadian auto-parts supplier grapples with Silicon Valley's increasing role in the automotive industry.

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Mr. Fadell will be part of a six-person advisory council that also includes Paul Mascarenas, former chief technical officer at Ford Motor Co., and Ian Hunter, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor.

Magna is trying to address the "explosion of mobility that is occurring and will continue to occur because of electrification, because of connectivity, because of sharing, because of automation," Mr. Fadell said in an interview. "And just to think that the only [form] of a vehicle is four wheels and two or four doors is probably the wrong way to think as we move ahead."

Mr. Fadell stepped down as chief executive of Nest last June, about two years after Alphabet's Google acquired the company he co-founded in 2010 to create internet-connected devices for the home. He is best known for his work at Apple helping to develop the iPod. Lately, he has been working on an electric go-kart startup he co-founded called Actev Motors.

Wall Street investors are raising doubts about traditional automotive players' abilities to keep up with tech companies. The success of Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car tests, the rise of Uber Technologies Inc. as an alternative to car ownership, and Tesla Inc.'s efforts to ship cars loaded with autonomous hardware, have threatened the future of the estimated $2 trillion U.S. auto market.

Magna, which assembles vehicles for auto makers in addition to supplying parts such as seating, powertrains and vision systems, was considered by Apple as a potential contract manufacturer when the tech giant was exploring the idea of a car, The Wall Street Journal has reported. The iPhone maker, however, appears to have pivoted its attention to focus on the software required to make a vehicle capable of driving itself, which could open the door to a new ecosystem of entertainment and communication services.

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Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 03, 2017 10:14 ET (14:14 GMT)