Krafcik’s hiring is the biggest poach yet in Silicon Valley’s bid to revolutionize the automotive industry. Krafcik, who was Hyundai’s CEO from 2008-2013, was an integral part of transforming the Korean automaker from an also-ran into a household name.
“This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars,” Krafcik wrote in an email to Automotive News. “This technology can save thousands of lives, give millions of people greater mobility, and free us from a lot of the things we find frustrating about driving today. I can’t wait to get started.”
Landing Krafcik is another indication that Google is serious about its goal of having a self-driving car on the market by 2020. Although Google doesn’t have any plans to get into the business of manufacturing automobiles, the company is widely expected to lean on established suppliers to get its self-driving car to market. Krafcik’s deep industry ties will certainly help on that front.
Google’s self-driving car program is still under the umbrella of the search engine, but it’s possible the division could be split into its own company under the new Alphabet Inc. holding company.
Krafcik has spent the last couple years as president of the car search Web site TrueCar. Although initially a promising enterprise, TrueCar has since fallen victim to problems with regulators and lawsuits from dealers. Last month TrueCar CEO Scott Painter resigned after disappointing second-quarter earnings sparked a drastic drop in the company’s stock price.