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Apple Inc. has reportedly hired an auto industry veteran for an unspecified “operations” role, ushering in a flurry of speculation about the technology giant potentially expanding into automotive.

Doug Betts, who most recently led global quality at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, started working for the California-based company this month in the role of “Operations-Apple Inc.,” according to his LinkedIn profile. The hire was reported by the Wall Street Journal, which reported Betts “declined to comment” on the position.

Apple did not immediately respond to an email from The Detroit News requesting comment about the reported hire.

Rumors of Apple exploring vehicle production have been going on for months. The company as well as Google Inc. are viewed as two technology giants with enough cash to disrupt the automotive industry. Both are producing infotainment systems, and Google has logged more than 1 million miles of testing its fleet of self-driving cars.

Betts, who worked for automakers for nearly 20 years, left Fiat Chrysler “to pursue other interests” in October, a day after the automaker ranked at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ annual reliability study and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreeing to review a request to open a formal investigation into 4.9 million 2007-14 Chrysler vehicles.

A Fiat Chrysler spokesman said “no comment” when asked if Betts’ departure was related to the potential recall investigation and poor reliability rankings, but it’s been speculated that Betts was forced out.

Betts, who also worked for Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motors Corp., left Fiat Chrysler two months after Chrysler said it was reorganizing vehicle safety efforts into a new office of Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance led by Senior Vice President Scott Kunselman. Previously, Chrysler housed auto safety in its global engineering group.

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