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.
"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.
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"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