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In Apple, Elon Musk has finally attracted a worthy competitor

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk talks at the Automotive World News Congress at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, January 13, 2015.
Reuters/Rebecca Cook
What, me worry?
By Steve LeVine
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

For a couple of years now, Elon Musk has done everything but get on his knees and beg rivals to produce cool, competitive electric cars. He even essentially open-sourced the technology underpinning Tesla, his own electric car company.

Musk’s more-the-merrier argument is that the industry is so new and so small that it will have very hard going to transcend its current niche status in the market without worthy competition. But he may now have gotten more than he wished for. In a scoop, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that Apple has “several hundred” employees working on an electric.

The details are slim. There is no information at all on the most crucial detail of all, which is what battery the car would use. In November, the Financial Times reported on very preliminary talks (paywall) between Apple and a Massachusetts battery-maker.

But it seems clear that the technology company intends to challenge Tesla head-on in the high-end luxury market. The staff Apple has hired include Steve Zadesky, a former Ford engineer who designed the iPod and iPhone, a senior Mercedes research-and-development executive named Johann Jungwirth, and former Ford designer Marc Newson.

Per usual, Apple isn’t commenting on the subject.

Already, Musk this week suffered a blow when he disappointed investors with a loss in the last quarter. Doubts have surfaced regarding how quickly he can ramp up his car business, and how big it will get.

In attracting Apple to the game, Musk potentially gets himself tangled in more trouble—a much different animal from GM, BMW, or anyone else. It’s a company that can also design cool stuff, one that can truly compete with him.

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