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Tesla CEO Elon Musk takes to Twitter to soften comments on Apple, praise beautiful watch design

Yesterday we reported on comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a recent interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt. The CEO, known for speaking his mind candidly on occasions, made comments that could easily have been interpreted as critical to the design of the Apple Watch and the quality of the company’s hires from Tesla, but Friday afternoon Musk took to Twitter to soften those comments. His initial comments were in reference to the so-called “poaching war” between Tesla and Apple over automotive engineers. “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.”

Musk then briefly explained why he is not worried about Apple entering the electric vehicle industry:

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.

These comments were made last month during Musk’s visit in Europe, but U.S. media only picked up the comments yesterday and the CEO took to Twitter Friday afternoon to clarify:

These comments shouldn’t come as a surprise since Musk has been vocal in the past about hoping for Apple to enter the auto industry with an electric car.

Musk mentioned Apple’s Chief Design Officer by name to congratulate him and his team on the design of the watch. Coincidentally both executives were at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit earlier this week. Ive shared the stage with director J.J. Abrams, while Musk had a discussion with Y Combinator President Sam Altman moderated by New York Times and CNBC contributor Andrew Ross Sorkin.

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  1. Pedro Ibarra - 7 years ago

    This is a true visionary. Everyone is a liar.

  2. Robert A. Petersen - 7 years ago

    Competition is good, and Elon Musk almost always tweets from his iPhone. It’s just friendly jabs at an upcoming EV competitor.

  3. he probably even uses an iPhone

    • Fred Lambert - 7 years ago

      He does. I remember him saying he likes to read books on his iPhone. What an animal!

  4. vecter304 - 7 years ago

    Wow. Now he is bailing out? After talking that much trash? And he has no guts to back up his strong words.
    This sums it all up. He is both childish and coward at a same time.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

      He’s hoping it might prevent a lawsuit from his former employees that work at Apple that he slandered. He HAS an A-HOLE, but he is ALSO an A-HOLE, so he’s a DOUBLE A-HOLE. And we continue to rip into him, he’ll have more metaphorical A-HOLES. I don’t know how many he can rack up, but the more he opens his own mouth, he seems to open himself up to being ripped into.

      Employers are not supposed to say certain things about former employees, especially publicly.

      Here’s a site about this. I’m not an attorney, but I have talked about this with my former HR rep and they told me they are NOT allowed to say ANYTHING other than my start/end date to verify employment. I don’t believe you can just tell people they all got fired and because they didn’t pull their weight and talking about it in a SERIOUS manner in a public place, which is now viral.

      He wasn’t allowed to be CEO of his first company, he was ousted from PayPal, so his own track record isn’t that great and this on WIkiPedia. He seems to only start companies and then sell them to make BUCKETS OF CASH, so I don’t know how much longer he’ll stick with Tesla. Maybe he’s just trying to sell off the company if they can’t make it profitable.

      • Jon_boy (@Jon_boy1) - 7 years ago

        He didn’t name any former Tesla employee who now works at Apple specifically. IMO any lawsuit that could arise from this is frivolous.

      • AeronPeryton - 7 years ago

        He realizes that he might want to sell to Apple, so he’s trying to make nice with them now.

  5. incredibilistic - 7 years ago

    He seems to be spending a lot of time talking about Apple making a car. Is he so worried that he has to talk s*** this early in this process?

    If he thinks he’s figured out the automotive industry and doesn’t think he has any competition in the EV market then he shouldn’t have anything to worry about. But all this negative rhetoric reeks of paranoia. Doubling down isn’t good but this retraction feels like it’s coming from the board or someone else of authority as the tone is very apologetic and humbling. The “Yo” at the beginning suggests he’s being genuine but the last few words sound like an official but brief statement from legal.

    • Allewsive (@Allewsive) - 7 years ago

      I think you must have missed what Elon and his team are trying to accomplish in the auto, space, and solar industries. He is not trying to ‘WIN’ a battle of brands per say, but trying to change the way all of those industries think. More and more auto companies are building EV, and talking about how their new EV’s compete with Tesla. This is exactly what Elon wanted! He wants every car to be an EV on the road because of the strong potential behind electric motors, safety, and energy. In the space sector we are starting to see competition from Boeing, SpaceX, and other private companies. Solar has ramped up thanks to SolarCity bringing huge awareness and a competitive business model.

      So when you say, “He seems to be spending a lot of time talking about Apple making a car…”, then you need to understand he is trying to push the idea of Apple making a car even further so that people in the public say, “Hey! Apple is doing electric vehicles, maybe I should think about an EV for my next car.” Say what you will, but Apple brings the market competition into the mainstream even more, so that is great for Tesla.

      • incredibilistic - 7 years ago

        Clearly we’re reading the situation differently. Every time someone asks Elon about Apple making a car it’s usually met with some sort of animosity and defensive rhetoric.

        This is not even close to the first time he’s made disparaging comments about Apple but I think we’ll see a lot less of that in the future. Someone got to him and likely told him enough is enough and to calm down all the hate speech he’s been spewing for well over a year. Only now has he taken a softer approach but, again, I suspect someone above him or someone with great authority advised him to take the Apple mudslinging down a notch.

        There’s no denying that Elon and Tesla are doing some amazing things and there’s no way Apple will ever be able to touch some of the things Tesla’s working on, like Space X and the Power Wall. So frankly there’s no need for him to get chippy when discussing Apple.

      • Fred Lambert - 7 years ago

        Calling his comments “hate speech” is ridiculous.

      • Steve Grenier - 7 years ago

        Finally. A lot of people don’t realize Tesla wasn’t created to be the best of the best. It was simply made to push everyone else to follow suit. There’s a reason they open almost (if not all) of their patents so others can use their technology.

    • Ali Hamodi - 7 years ago

      His company is the only company in the world that released all its patents for free for all other manufacturers (including as Apple!). His company doesn’t act like kids (such as Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung) who we always hear they fight over some silly patents. Man you should read more about other companies. He created a company that would one day take people to the space, and yet you talk like that about him! Go do fraction of what he did!

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

    Making defamation accusations against former employees is just flat out wrong. he’s just doing damage control. I hope they sue him and they win and he gets thrown out of Tesla. He seems like USDA PRIME GRADE A A-Hole.

    • Allewsive (@Allewsive) - 7 years ago

      Since when did being a passionate A-Hole get you thrown from a company that wouldn’t survive without you? Oh, well that happened to Steve Jobs back in the 90’s with Apple, then Apple almost sank, and he went back as the same “passionate A-hole” many reported he was, but brought the company to the front of consumer technology and design… yep, I am sure Elon will get booted…

      • Jobs was simply astounding and powerful. Hardly anyone could ever match his abilities to get things done! :)

  7. stevelawrence - 7 years ago

    What is with all these high-profile statements that are negative about Apple, swiftly followed by retractions and/or clarifications recently? It makes me wonder whether Apple pull out some dirt file on these people and threaten to use it or something

  8. Eric Tatsumi - 7 years ago

    Honestly, I can understand Elon.
    When he said “Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?” it was more like a joke and because, just like he wrote on twitter, “the functionality isn’t compelling yet”.
    I think Elon really likes Apple and is a bit of a fan of Apple. People are just being brainless again. When I read what he said in the interview, I took it with humour, because I know Elon is not a prick or something.

  9. Koatsey - 7 years ago

    I agree about there Apple Watch, I have one and its not compelling enough currently. I think the mistake all smart watches are making is making them the same format as a watch…

    What I’d like is to get rid of the phone and have a longer rectangular watch/device on my wrist, say 2-3 inches long. A rechargeable ear bud and ditch the phone. This is the next evolution in my humble opinion. I do not need a phone to do all of this and I’d buy this format in a heart beat. Yep I know the camera is important but I’d forgo this for a quality device like this. It’s about the 80/20 you genius Jony, in this case its the 90/20. 90% of the time I want the core features, phone, texts, email.

    All this would be wonderful on a larger, i.e. longer device on my wrist so I can lose the phone. Yes Apple you will bite in to your most successful product ever but if Google and Android vendors really get this sorted you will lose phone sale revenue and not replace it with a really functional Apple Wrist Device, the iWrist. Calling these things watches illustrates the type cast nature and therefore the rigid design parameters currently being adopted.

  10. يحي (@aratuk) - 7 years ago


  11. Rasmussen (@Twitboydk) - 7 years ago

    He is most likely right. The guy made the Tesla cars. He is obviously a genius. Who are we to judge….
    Personally I am disappointed with the apple watch. It doesn’t feel like an apple product at all…Musk is right

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      How do you determine what makes something an Apple product? Also what’s genius about producing a product that’s very expensive, not profitable and most people don’t care about (let’s face it, it’s only the lefty hipster global warming nutters that are interested in Tesla’s, assuming they can afford one)?

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      Apple already has probably sold more watches than Teslas will ever be sold.

      • Rasmussen (@Twitboydk) - 7 years ago


        did you just compare a watch to an electric car?

        And while we are at it. Apple are building electric cars themselves now. So most likely you´ll end up as one of those global warming nutters yourself. :-D

    • Dave Huntley - 7 years ago

      So u just say who are we to judge on musk’s opinion then u go on with a judgement anyway.

      Then u make judgements on people who reply to your comments, nutters u say.

  12. airmanchairman - 7 years ago

    Sorkin, Musk, Dell, Ballmer, Wakayabashi, Schmidt and all the past and future Apple naysayers are all well above my pay grade, so my opinion of their motives and rationale is moot.

    However, they do offer me great entertainment with their rants and asides and snide put-downs, as I greatly love the politics of hi-tech.

    Especially because in the fullness of time, the relevance of and justification (or not) of their tirades becomes painfully clear, separating reality from fanciful delusion, or what Jon Gruber calls “Claim chowder”.

  13. Bria (@_xxfoxtail) - 7 years ago

    Kinda seems like he’s afraid of Apple. But should he really worry though? Apple recently entered the smartwatch market and everyone thought Pebble was done for. They seem like they’re still going strong with three new products this year.


Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek. He sometimes contributes to 9to5mac and 9to5Google.