Elon Musk actually really wants Apple to build an electric car

If he’s worried, it’s not about the competition.
If he’s worried, it’s not about the competition.
Image: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
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Elon Musk takes it back.

After blasting Apple in a Sept. 26 interview with German media—Musk called Apple’s secretive new car project a “Tesla graveyard” and questioned its ability to produce an electric vehicle—the Tesla CEO quickly changed tune, after his remarks caught the attention of the US press two weeks later.

Given the pointedness of what he told the German newspaper Handelsblatt (example: “If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding”) some might question the sincerity of Musk’s follow-up tweet. But he also wasn’t kidding about being glad to welcome the competition.

Musk has long argued that new players will help advance the electrics industry. Last year, he open-sourced Tesla’s patents, allowing competitors to reverse-engineer the car maker’s technologies—a move that could ultimately drive down the manufacturing costs for Tesla by attracting more auto-parts suppliers to the electrics industry.

More suppliers and manufacturers would also mean a more vibrant market for motorists, and a better chance at achieving the critical mass Musk would need to sell as many Teslas as he hopes to. And really, what’s a little trash talk between rivals when you’re trying to turn a niche product into a mass-market industry?

In Apple, Tesla may find a particularly worthy competitor when it comes to design, as Quartz’s Steve LeVine argued back in February. But Musk is welcoming of rivals from the traditional car industry, too. In an interview with the Danish newspaper Børsen last month, he said he was happy to see competition from Porsche, which recently showed off an all-electric concept sports car at the Frankfurt Auto Show.