Apple veteran instrumental to iPhone development leaves for electric-vehicle maker Rivian: ‘Now is the time for me to move on’


An Apple Inc. veteran who led work on home devices and helped start efforts to develop an electric vehicle is leaving for Rivian Automotive Inc., marking yet another senior departure for the iPhone maker.

DJ Novotney, a vice president of hardware engineering, informed colleagues Friday of his exit, according to people with knowledge of the matter. He will become senior vice president of vehicle programs at Rivian, the maker of electric SUVs and pickup trucks, and report to Chief Executive Officer RJ Scaringe, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing unannounced matters.

Novotney, who worked at Apple for nearly 25 years, was known as a senior lieutenant to many of the company’s top hardware engineering executives. He was instrumental in the development of several generations of the iPod and iPhone, and was tapped by former hardware chief Dan Riccio to help lead development of the iPad, the people said.

“Great products are what we do best and I have been so very lucky along the way to be part of so many amazing teams that developed everything from iPod, iPhone, iPad, Watch and so many more,” Novotney wrote in a memo to colleagues that was seen by Bloomberg. “Apple has been my life, but now is the time for me to move on and help bring to life a new set of products.”

Novotney also helped bring the Apple Watch to market, having been brought on to the project by Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and former head designer Jony Ive. About a decade ago, Novotney was one of a few executives tapped to kick start Apple’s efforts to develop an electric vehicle — a project codenamed Titan.

Amid a re-organization of the car project following continued setbacks a few years ago, Novotney moved on to become a senior executive in charge of developing future home devices, including some in the robotics and artificial intelligence spaces. Apple has explored a HomePod with a display that can swivel via a robotic arm, Bloomberg News has reported.

Rivian sees the hire as a major coup. Novotney, who is starting at the company on Monday, will be one of about a dozen senior vice presidents. In his new role, he’ll lead product management for products and engineering, making him one of the company’s most critical executives.

Rivian’s Scaringe took the head of product role after the previous executive in charge of development, Nick Kalayjian stepped back, Bloomberg News reported in November. Kalayjian is leaving the carmaker this year and Novotney will take on many of his responsibilities.

Spokespeople for Apple and Rivian declined to comment. Novotney didn’t respond to a request for comment.

For Cupertino-based Apple, the move marks yet another exit in the senior ranks. Tang Tan, Apple’s vice president of product design for the iPhone and Apple Watch, is leaving the company next month for LoveFrom, Ive’s design firm, while hardware technologies leader Steve Hotelling exited late last year. Across 2022 and 2023, it lost a slew of other executives in hardware, operations and services.

Irvine, California-based Rivian has been seen as a leading contender among a handful of EV startups chasing market leader Tesla Inc. It makes two consumer models — battery-electric pickups and sport utility vehicles called R1T and R1S. The company also makes a battery-electric delivery van for Inc. and recently announced it had been freed from exclusivity to sell the last-mile product to others.

Subscribe to the Eye on AI newsletter to stay abreast of how AI is shaping the future of business. Sign up for free.