Elon Musk Throws Shade At Apple, German Automakers - InformationWeek

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Elon Musk Throws Shade At Apple, German Automakers

Tesla CEO Elon Musk talks electric cars and emissions scandals -- and throws some shade at Apple, Toyota, and German automakers. However, he later backed off some comments in a Tweet.

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Elon Musk, the charismatic CEO of electric carmaker Tesla, has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. In an interview with the German business newspaper Handelsblatt this week he provided some candid insights on Apple and other companies.

Musk took the opportunity to reference Apple's recent poaching of Tesla employees, which the report referred to as the company's most important engineers.

Apple recently hired Jamie Carlson, a former senior engineer at Tesla, reportedly to help develop Project Titan, the codename for the company's alleged electric car project.

"We always jokingly call Apple the Tesla Graveyard," Musk told the paper. "They have hired people we've fired … If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I'm not kidding."

All ribbing aside, Musk, who has previously challenged other tech firms to focus on developing electric vehicles, also had warm words for Apple, though he was measured in his enthusiasm.

Elon Musk
(Image: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr)

Elon Musk

(Image: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr)

"It's good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches," Musk said. "You can't just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say: 'Build me a car.' But for Apple, the car is the next logical thing to finally offer a significant innovation. A new pencil or a bigger iPad alone were not relevant enough."

Later, Musk sent out a Tweet that backed off on some of the Apple comments.

"Yo, I don't hate Apple. It's a great company with a lot of talented people. I love their products and I'm glad they're doing an EV," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

In the intreview with the paper, Musk also outlined his plan for Tesla, which, despite its high profile and resoundingly good reviews, has yet to turn a profit -- something he acknowledges can't continue indefinitely.

"I hope to be profitable next year. I agree, we cannot be making losses forever. This year we'll be investing a lot into the manufacturing ramp-up of the Model X, and in the long term, the Model 3 as well," he explained. "So our goal from next year onwards is to be cash-flow positive. But we wouldn't slow down our growth for the sake of profitability."

Although Musk credited German companies like Bosch and Dräxlmaier for being integral to Tesla's manufacturing process, he used Volkswagen as an example of the limits of fossil fuel technology, saying the company had to cheat in order to appear competitive.

Musk also chastised Daimler and Japanese carmaker Toyota for not being ambitious enough with their own electric car efforts.

[Read about Toyota's $50 million AI investment.]

"The problem that we found with programs we did with Toyota and with Daimler was that they ended up being too small," he said. "They basically just calculated the amount they needed to keep the regulators happy and made the program as small as possible. We don't want to do programs like that. We want to do programs that are going to change the world."

The interview follows the debut of Tesla's latest vehicle, the Model X, a sport utility vehicle that features advanced safety features and Falcon Wing doors, and that boasts seating for up to seven passengers.

The most eye-catching feature is the Falcon Wing doors, which require only a foot of clearance. The doors articulate up and out of the way, allowing passengers to enter from both front and rear directions.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 4:27:53 AM
Competition is good for the electric car industry and it is good for individuals as well because, it creates headhunters that reward the skills of an individual.

If Apple is actually building an electric car, it will be interesting to see the competency that a smartphone maker can bring to the electric car industry. Battery technology and integrating distinct (CPUs, sensors, software and the cloud, etc.) technologies into a single product might be the competencies that the electric car industry requires. In that case, Samsung should also enter the industry.  
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2015 | 5:14:25 PM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
We got in the wrong path with battery cars. There is simply no electric grid around that can sustain their tremendous load of charging them day after day -- even in relatively small numbers. And if electric cars have fast charging batteries, their power draw on the grid would be so high they would put the lights out -- leaving us all in the dark. Hydrogen cars on the other hand store their energy in the fuel molecules themselves -- eliminating the need to transfer huge amounts of raw power all at once. This distinction alone leaves hydrogen as the only workable alternative for clean transportation. The battery car folks got it wrong -- and they have led us wrong.
User Rank: Ninja
10/10/2015 | 2:47:16 PM
We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
But, you're not going to change ANYTHING until you, or someone else, can develop a battery that can charge as fast, or at least almost as fast, as you can fill up a present day car with gasoline. Until then, electric cars will only be toys for the rich, like space tourism. Do I see a pattern here?
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