Elon Musk calls Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard,’ warns of the complexities of car manufacturing


Apple’s so-called “poaching war” with Tesla has been a hot topic for the company’s CEO Elon Musk and in a recent interview, Musk fired even more shots at Apple. Speaking to German newspaper Handelsblatt, Musk voiced his lack of concern regarding Apple’s tendency to hire Tesla engineers and executives. Musk is recently finished a trip around Europe, speaking with politicians and Tesla employees.

When it comes to the ongoing poaching war with Apple, Musk stated that the people Apple is poaching are ones that have been fired by Tesla. “They have hired people we’ve fired,” Musk said. “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple.” And in case you thought Musk was just joking, he made sure we knew that he wasn’t. “I’m not kidding,” he stated.

Furthermore regarding Apple’s plans to manufacture its own electric car, Musk said that it’s a very ambitious move on the company’s part, but he’s glad they are doing it. He warned Apple, however, that there’s a lot more that goes into building cars than building phones and smartwatches. With that said, Musk noted that cars are the “next logical thing” for Apple to move towards and investigate.

Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch? (laughs) No, seriously: It’s good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches. 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.

While Musk’s comments come off as slightly defensive and trash talk-like, he makes a very good point. There are thousands of unique parts in a car and the supply chain to produce one is more complex than any of Apple’s current products by a few orders of magnitude.

Musk has previously said that he “hopes” Apple will enter the car market and that it will be “great” for the industry. Most recently, reports have suggested that Apple’s electric car project, codenamed Project Titan, is moving along more quickly than first believed. Apple is reportedly already testing its car at a secret car test track. Apple is said to be working with BMW on the Titan project, and operating the entire endeavour under a shell company called SixtyEight Research.

You can read much more about Tesla, Elon Musk, and other solar projects on our sister site Electrek

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  1. Iven Tenz (@ivenalot) - 7 years ago

    “Tesla CEO believes German carmakers are too old school and need to embrace e-mobility. Source: AP”

    I’m sorry, but this guy seems way to arrogant to me.

    • Charlypollo - 7 years ago

      The companies that this guy created/direct/invest in have the ability to send things into space, create energy from the sun light, or build the best electric cars in the world. I think he has the right to be a bit cocky or arrogant.

      • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

        He’s sticking a battery in a car. For the price they are charging, they should be. But his company is losing money and has only so much cash and incoming money to keep the company going. I think the 4 door model looks too much like a Ford Fusion. The X is cool, but it’s too expensive. he only makes cars for wealthy people. The average car owner can’t afford Tesla’s.

        Anyone can invest in companies that sends things into space. Look at all of the major NASA contractors that are publicly traded companies.

        Solar? WOW. he didn’t invent solar.

        The problem with what he’s saying is really tacky. You don’t damage the reputation of former employees like that. who knows, maybe all of the former employees of Tesla will band together and issue a class action lawsuit against his ass for defamation of former Tesla employees that are now Apple employees. Because that’s what he’s essentially saying out loud. I’m sure his lawyers are tell Elon to keep his mouth shut. A defamation class action lawsuit could get VERY expensive.

        Would you want to work for someone that damages YOUR reputation if things don’t work out, essentially damaging your reputation? Remember, these people are people and they have resumes to get work, just like any normal person. If someone reads this loser’s comments and believes him because the employees he’s talking about aren’t on stage keeping him REAL, would you hire them if they were looking for another job? I don’t believe they were insubordinate or dishonest people. But what I do believe is for whatever reason, these people may not really dig the future and maybe they didn’t agree with upper management and were looking elsewhere and Tesla fired them before they could submit their resignation. It’s a tactic that many loser companies do. I know someone that worked at Dell that was interviewing at Apple and he got fired when Dell found out. This kind of thing happens a lot in the industry and unfortunately there are a lot of ego maniacs that grandstand because there are rich, famous and have the stage and the people he’s referring to aren’t there. How convenient. Sorry, I think worse of Elon for this kind of tactic. It’s HIGHLY unprofessional and HIGHLY something that these former employees might take legal action against. Don’t be so sure that they aren’t considering it. I certainly would if I were them.

        There should be laws against firing someone that’s looking for a job with another company/competitor or otherwise.

      • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

        Elon is a 100% total retard. I believe by law, an employer can’t give specific information about a former employee. He essentially is telling world that Apple employees that were former Tesla employees were fired for not pulling their weight. That’s a MAJOR lawsuit that could send Elon Musk back to Africa without a dime and even fired as CEO of Tesla right before they eject him out of the country penniless. That’s WRONG. PERIOD.

        There is NO question what he just did is one of the WORST thing a CEO or any member of upper management can go public and say about former employees. Heck, if I was Tim Cook, I’d have Apple fund their lawsuit and use Apple’s best attorneys because Apple might be able to take legal action against that pile of garbage. I don’t care if the guy invented air, he has NO right to damage former employees of his company in a public interview. it’s one thing to take pot shots at a competitor, but he went to people that are just normal working engineers, not some billionaire CEO.

    • It’s not arrogant at all. German carmakers are old school.

      • Leif Paul Ashley - 7 years ago

        I was about to say that, but I’ll also add one that ALL carmakers are old school. Neither Audi nor Ford can seem to understand that their center console computer sucks and that when I buy one of their cars, is has never been because of that feature at all.

    • crichton007 - 7 years ago

      What I find ironic in this is that the US car makers have leveled similar accusations at Tesla. Heck, Tesla still hasn’t proven much itself yet and this sounds, to me, mor like he’s afraid than anything else. Why open source your battery tech if you don’t want all comers to use it?

    • Arrogant: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities

      No, he’s not arrogant whatsoever, he simply knows himself.

    • I don’t get the statement at all. Last I checked, Porsche, BMW, Audi, and VW at least all have electric cars either in concept or in production on the streets. Sounds to me that German carmakers are embracing e-mobility. They’re simply not discontinuing their heritage.

  2. vecter304 - 7 years ago

    Wow, this fellow now acts and speaks like a little child, doesn’t he?

    • vecter304 - 7 years ago

      Also I remember apple hired at least one of tesla’s senior engineer. So if this fellow says ‘apple only hires unqualified manpower’ does it mean that tesla is currently having ‘unqualified and soon be fired’ person as senior engineer? That doesn’t make any sense.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

      It’s worse than that. I talked to one of my former employers and they told me when I asked that they can only mention start/end date, they cannot mention reason for leaving or anything else. PERIOD. I believe he can get his ass sued and possibly Tesla as well since he’s the CEO. I hope Tim Cook gets these former Tesla employees the best law firm to take their case that makes the Samsung lawsuit look like peanuts.

      These statements were public and highly publicized by the media. Anyone that has read these articles or heard Elon say such things will remember it if any Apple employee should want to find employment elsewhere that worked for Tesla. This damages their reputation for the rest of their career. This is not a “I’m sorry” and give them peanuts. I would sue the every living piss out of Elon/Tesla and not think twice about it. It’s not on tacky, it’s just freaking WRONG and it damages regular working class people trying to earn a living. How would you like if you were a former Tesla employee that works at Apple and he said that about YOU. Since your friends/family/relatives/co-workers and anyone that runs into that looks at your resume know what this a-hole said, how it puts you in a defensive position. And this will follow you the rest of your career since Elon’s statements are running all over the media. It’s one thing to say to one person in private, but publicly from the CEO? NOPE. Sorry, I have no sympathy for Elon and to think that I was considering buying a Tesla if I could ever afford one. NOPE. Not anymore. Especially if that A-hole still works for them or has any financial gain from Tesla sales. This is outrageously disgusting that a respected CEO resorts to this. Completely out of line.

  3. matthewr1990 - 7 years ago

    Tesla are too cool to hate. He’s making a very Valid point. I’m forever hearing Apple have “poached former tesla employee John so and so”. Former doesn’t always mean they were sacked, yes I know it doesn’t mean they were necessarily fired, though I bet a fair few were. Tesla is a ruthlessly brilliant company. They’re growing faster than most companies ever will. 3 years ago Tesla was mostly unheard of. And now they’re changing the way we look at electric transport almost single handedly. They wouldn’t of got where they are now without being ruthless I’m sure of it, for this I respect Tesla and I think Musk is right. Apple will struggle here. But that doesn’t mean they will fail and it will only mean good things if they get it right. There’s no progress without competition. And electric vehicles are already showing so much promise. Now if they can bring the running costs, price down and the ranges up we may have the future of cars.

    (Not going to lie though, Musk has a certain cockiness that really makes me want Apple to absolute smash electric vehicles out the park, just to see his smug little face then. I still like him though. Lmao)

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

      He just damaged the reputations of former employees for personal gain. He can get sued for what he said. Go talk to someone at HR at the company you work for. I have, and they told me they can only mention start/end date and NOTHING else. Tesla’s been losing money and i don’t know when they are going to break even, so I honestly don’t know how well the company is actually run, but this crap is outrageous and will prevent me from promoting Tesla cars. Not with an A-Hole CEO that damages the reputation of former employees in a public forum that’s highly publicized.

  4. Dave Huntley - 7 years ago

    Wel looking at the story then comments below… Why does Tesla care if they hire ex employees, the headline ‘poaching’ is obviously untrue. He says they were all fired, yet he is touchy about it..

    Anyway re comment below on Tesla coming out of nowhere, well yeah Musk came out of Canada and no one had heard of him but he found a niche. Apple too has always been good at finding a niche. For all you know these engineers are not building a whole car but helping build systems to sell on to car manufacturers… You just don’t know enough to comment.!

  5. Mel B. Burstein - 7 years ago

    Cut him some slack. He’s a genus and visionary.

    • rnc - 7 years ago

      That? We will see…

      Let’s see if he’s still running Tesla in 5 years…

      Do you think Tesla stands a chance to BMW, for example?

      Don’t think so… Also Tesla is not even making it up on the 50 states, let’s see if that arrogance will work here in Europe, or in Asia…

  6. 98cobra - 7 years ago

    Ridiculous. Apple has the deepest pocket book in the world, they could make a mockery out of Tesla or buy them out if they wanted to. This reminds me of the same thing other phone companies were saying when the iPhone was rumored….. where are Palm and Nokia now??

    Tesla has learned how to make good battery and electric car tech, and is making some amazing cars with the Model S and the forthcoming Model X. Maybe now they can try to figure out how to get out of the red and actually show $1 of profit to start.

    • Fred Lambert - 7 years ago

      “This reminds me of the same thing other phone companies were saying when the iPhone was rumored….. where are Palm and Nokia now??”

      Comparing the jump from iPod to smartphone with the jump from smartphone to car is not a good idea IMO.

      • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

        The engineering to build the best computers is a lot more complex than a vehicle. You look at the engineering Apple puts into its products and look at a car, sorry to say, but cars thus far don’t touch that level of engineering and inventiveness. The only thing you could say is that a car has many more parts that need to be working, and it’s a lot bigger, and has mechanical aspects. I feel bad for them when Apple shows their car which Apple has so much more money to pour into and can get the best people in the world to help build, and already has some of the best engineers on the planet working on. Apple’s car will blow everything else away in numerous aspects, but it may be insanely expensive.

        The thing about Apple is that they try to change the world and understand that making something so expensive that few people can buy, doesn’t change the world. I have to believe they’re aiming for a price point that won’t make it something few can buy.

  7. Yes, cars are hard. and Apple has the money and the time to learn what’s needed. The first Hyundai was a POS. Now they rank at the top.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      I’d like to see Tesla make the best smartphone in the world. I’d like to see Tesla make even a great smartphone.

      Cars aren’t that hard. They just require more of everything. At least, today’s cars aren’t that hard.

  8. ScreenPhiles - 7 years ago

    Musk sounds AWFULLY insecure for someone working from–supposedly–a position of strength.

  9. Jake Becker - 7 years ago

    Implying that all of them were fired. Not likely since they were all at one time hired, if he has that kind of turnaround on those positions then I question the managing methods in that company.

  10. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

    I keep on wondering when Tesla plans on turning a profit and eliminating most of their debt. I just find it hard to believe that essentially two body styles and some batteries you stick in your house is going get Tesla to reach profitability anytime in the near future and they can only have so much debt, which they already have and they only have so much cash. And Musk forgot to mention that with BMW’s assistance, the problems will probably be minimal since BMW has been making cars far longer than Elon Musk has been driving cars. I just wonder if the auto industry, even with all electric is going to be profitable enough to even bother with in the first place. Yeah, out of anyone, Apple can certainly afford to cover the costs, but will it just drag profit margins down even when that division begins to become profitable? That’s the only concern I have.

  11. Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

    Hey, this is message to all future employees of Tesla. If you get hired and then get fired, which you don’t know ahead of time, they’ll go public essentially trash talking you. That sounds pretty scary to want to work for some jerk off that damages people’s reputations. I’m sure the people that got fired probably were over something stupid like differences of opinions on things. Maybe they got fired because they were looking elsewhere and the company wanted to get rid of people without having to give them their vested stock options, etc. All kinds of reasons why people leave or get fired to go to another company. You have to talk to the people in question rather than listening to some CEO that might be just doing damage control to divert people away from looking at Tesla’s financials.

    So, Elon, when is Tesla going to break even and when is Tesla going to actually hit profitability or is this just another Pre-Profit stock where it’s always oversold like Amazon, Facebook, and others like them?

  12. Building a car today is an order of magnitude easier than building many of Apple’s breakthrough products. If he thinks that Apple has ever gone to Foxconn and said “build us this…” he’s as sorely mistaken as one Mr. Ed Colligan.

    • o0smoothies0o - 7 years ago

      Exactly. Like building one of today’s cars requires insane talent… I mean they really just require large scale manufacturing and many many more components.

      Frankly, it’s a cake walk for Apple with the people they have, the people they can get, and the money they have to pour into it.

    • alanaudio - 7 years ago

      If Apple had originally walked into Foxconn in 2007 with a design like the latest iPhones, Foxconn would have told them that they would be impossible to make. I understood that they had misgivings about being able to manufacture the original iPhone too and we know that several subsequent models of the iPhone encountered manufacturing issues during the production ramp up. What Apple originally asked Foxconn to assemble involved entering uncharted territory. Those first iPhones were unlike other phones at the time and needed new approaches in order to build them. Foxconn worked with Apple and devised a way to make them in vast quantities and to a high standard. They accepted the challenge, and achieved more than they thought possible.

      When it comes to building a car, Apple will again carefully choose partners who might not already have all the required facilities or expertise, but who have the ‘can do’ attitude and are prepared to do whatever it takes to make it happen. I think it’s highly likely that some of the major partners will not be companies that are traditionally thought of as car manufacturing companies or suppliers.

      When Apple is rumoured to enter a new market ( music players, phones, tablets, retail stores, digital music selling, watches etc ), we always get the incumbents and ‘experts’ saying why Apple can’t possibly succeed. Those naysayers sound like the Doomsday cult who have reluctantly acknowledged that the world didn’t end on Wednesday, or on any of the other times they previously said it would, but who still insist that they will be proved right next time.

  13. Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

    If Tesla wants to keep its people – maybe they should offer them something that they will want to work on and build for the future…

    obviously apple is new to this, but they were to watches, ipads, computers… some would argue that building something like watch is no different from a car – after all, they are both built on a production line…
    Look at google – they are not a car factory, but they are making self driving cars…

    the problem with these big car companies, they are afraid of change and they stick to what they know…Apple are getting car experts and combining them with computer experts and combing them with new alloys, new techniques, etc etc.

    Tesla are just scared because Apple took on Microsoft with the Mac…they took on music players…they took on tablets… they took on watches…apple, and other computer companies, and pushing for more… after all, car companies have some tech, but usually in very expensive cars — computer companies have been wanting to put more tech into cars but they are restricted by car companies… bluetooth should be standard in cars…cars should have docking stations for devices (we all have them)… cars should help us get to and from places safely and more efficiently — i should be able to sync my phone to my car so that when i plan a trip it will tell me how much gas i need, it plans a route with places to fill up, etc etc…cars should be smart… for example – find my car… can you image if this was standard on ALL cars – you’d be able to locate your car in a busy carpark, deactivate it if stolen, etc etc – i know some cars have attempted to add features like this, but not many and they are very expensive :-(

  14. I love both these companies so just help each other, do not poach employees.

  15. DSP (@dsp2go) - 7 years ago

    “A new pencil or a bigger iPad alone were not relevant enough.”

    Ahh but what if… Apple is using the new pencil and bigger iPad to make a car?

  16. davidt4n - 7 years ago

    Tesla thought that phones are just phones. No, they have soul, it’s the OS engineering makes it unique just like human. He shows somehow disrespectful to those who he fired, they are human too. You’re not good at here doesn’t mean you ain’t got better somewhere else.

  17. rnc - 7 years ago

    Elon Munsk is having the same attitude that Palm had to Apple when they released the iPhone… Only more insulting.

    Also, is he really criticizing Apple in the Operations department?

    Omg, does anyone believe this? Apple is considered to be the XXI Toyota, they are the best in that regard, they basically have no inventory, etc…

  18. triankar - 7 years ago

    Musk has a point about not being impressed with Apple’s hardware releases this year. I dread the suspicion that Apple’s innovations are becoming more and more lifestyle-focused rather than producing good engineering to make our lives easier and better. That’s not a good direction when you’re about to make a car.

    My estimate is that Apple will focus on city-centric electric vehicles and on making them more convenient and connected. Something very much like the Hiriko, but with Apple’s touch. I’m only afraid that Apple’s offering will be way overpriced for what it will be and it’ll target the same kind of wallets like Tesla does (i.e. rich people)

    On the upside, Ive can talk to Lotus about making cars. They also like to keep things light but gladly they’ve omitted the “thin” part. Not good when you want to go around corners quickly.

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      What is lifestyle focused about iPad Pro? And 3D Touch and Apple Pencil and not good engineering? Also how are vehicles (electrical or otherwise) not lifestyle focused? Last time I checked Tesla is selling cars to consumers not changing transportation as we know it.

  19. Isitjustme - 7 years ago

    And in case you thought Musk was just joking, he made sure we knew that he wasn’t. “I’m not kidding,” he stated.

    Yea he wasn’t kidding. LOL

  20. drgeert - 7 years ago

    Oh boy this guy reacts exactly like Microsoft, Nokia, and Swatch did.

    Shouldn’t a guy like him know his classics?

  21. azmkhan - 7 years ago

    This guy is the new Steve Jobs. Visionary, marketing genius, brilliant innovator but arrogant, cocky and eccentric. He loves to talk down potential competitors and Apple is getting the taste of their own medicine now. This is exactly what Steve did to other companies. History repeats itself I guess.

  22. I am tired of Tesla. They make cars the average person can’t afford, until they can produce a vehicle people can actually afford they won’t be able to go anywhere. It’s great you can buy a Tesla, custom order it with the colors you want etc.

    However until the average consumer can visit a Tesla dealer and be able to purchase a car they can afford, and drive home the same day there won’t be much growth.


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