Elon Musk can’t stop talking about Apple’s rumored electric car

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has built one of the first mainstream electric cars, but he frequently mentions potential competitors.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has built one of the first mainstream electric cars, but he frequently mentions potential competitors.
Image: REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi - RTS2SR3
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Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has no problem talking about rivals in the electric car industry—or even about companies that haven’t officially become competitors.

In an interview with the BBC, Musk was asked about the much-rumored Apple Car. As usual, he was happy to discuss the matter, saying it was “obvious” that Apple’s working on an automobile, but that he welcomes all comers. “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it,” he said. “It’s an open secret.”

Indeed, there’s been plenty written on the topic. In Feb. 2015, the Financial Times reported Apple was hiring automobile experts, while the Wall Street Journal said Apple was working on an electric car project, codenamed “Project Titan,” and was aiming for a 2019 release date. Apple has yet to confirm anything, but Musk is still meeting the would-be competitor head on.

Here’s a roundup of what Musk has said about Apple’s interest in electric cars:

  • Feb. 2015—In an article about Tesla hiring from Apple, Musk tells Bloomberg Businessweek that Apple’s been attempting to poach Tesla employees by offering them $250,000 signing bonuses and 60% salary increases. “Apple tries very hard to recruit from Tesla,” he told the magazine. “But so far they’ve actually recruited very few people.” Ten days later, the first rumors about the Apple Car surface.
  • May 2015—On an earnings call, an analyst asked Musk about talent moving from Tesla to Apple, and how the maker of the iPhone could impact the electric car market:
  • “I certainly hope Apple gets into the car business. That would be great. But no, we’re not really seeing significant attrition of engineers to Apple, for anything, car or otherwise. And actually, anyone can, like, figure this out by just going on LinkedIn. LinkedIn can produce statistics on what the relative flow of people is from one company to another. And I think it’s like–something like–if you look at like the trailing 12 months, Tesla has recruited five times as many people from Apple as Apple’s recruited from Tesla. It’s like some–it’s a fairly high number.”
  • Oct. 2015—Musk delivers a shot to Apple in German newspaper Handelsblatt when asked about Tesla engineers flocking to Apple’s Project Titan: “Important engineers? They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

It’s not completely fair to blame Musk—people keep asking, and he keeps sharing his thoughts. Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook has remained mum. When asked about the possibility of an Apple electric car in a Dec. 2015 interview with 60 Minutes, Cook responded: ”One of the great things about Apple is [we] probably have more secrecy here than the CIA.”