Your Two Cents — Apple vs Tesla Poll

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As Chris and I discussed on our first “Cleantech Talk” podcast this week, one of the biggest cleantech stories of the past couple of weeks has been talk of Apple developing a self-driving electric car. Of course, it’s not clear to the public what Apple is working on, but that seems like a good possibility. Below, I’m reposting a thorough article on the topic that I wrote on EV Obsession. However, beforehand, we’ve got a poll below where you can chime in on the matter a bit. Admittedly, this poll was created by someone else for CleanTechnica, but I think it’s a good one so haven’t changed a thing. Chime in below, and keep this key quote from an anonymous Apple employee in mind:

“Apple’s latest project is too exciting to pass up. I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.”

Do you think Apple's rumored car project could one day challenge Tesla? in CleanTechnica – Polls on LockerDome

Here’s the full EV Obsession repost if you want more info before making a decision:

One of the hot electric car stories of the week is that Apple may be working on an electric car of its own. A lot of sites have been eagerly reporting on this, but with little integration of comments from different sources and sites. I know I’d love to see it happen as much as the next Apple & electric car fan, but it’s hard to believe. That said, the anonymous sources tipping people off seem to be pretty convinced it is indeed a car Apple is working on, and there have been a number of sources… but all anonymous.

Not the theoretical Apple car discussed in this article. Credit: iMo

To start with, an anonymous Apple employee told Business Insider that Apple is working on something big, with the implication being that it is in the electric car market. “Apple’s latest project is too exciting to pass up. I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money.”

So… yeah, anonymous + vague. Nonetheless, there’s also word that Apple has been trying to poach Tesla engineers with $250,000 signing bonuses and 60% pay increases… (with just limited success). Furthermore, one of the huge things Tesla has done is make its cars much more heavily based on software than other cars on the road. Updates — and even recalls! — occur virtually just as they do on your iPhone, iPad, computer, etc. With Apple’s expertise and influence in this space, it could potentially bring a good offering to market.

Also, a lot have been wondering, how far can Apple really go with new iPhones, iPads, and computers? Sure, it’s a great market, but people seem less and less impressed with the improvements that come out every 2–3 years. How far can it go, especially with Samsung and others closing in on the premium tech giant? Getting into the electric car business… now, that’s something that could lead to a lot more growth for the most valuable company in the world.

Back to the rumors, there are more pieces to the story that have been popping up.

Some outlets report that Apple has “several hundred” people working to design a car codenamed Titan. “Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly green-lighted the project almost a year ago, and company executives have already begun to meet with potential contract manufacturers, including Canadian firm Magna Steyr. Apple iPod and iPhone designer Steve Zadesky, formerly of Ford, is said to be running the project,” Apple Insider reports.

“The team — which has its own development facility away from the main Infinite Loop campus — could eventually swell to some 1,000 employees, and Zadesky has been given free reign to pull talent from any existing Apple group. Zadesky’s group is reportedly researching ‘robotics, metals and materials consistent with automobile manufacturing.’ ” Johann Jungwirth, formerly the head of Mercedes-Benz R&D, is reportedly one such person working on Titan.

Bryan Chaffin of the Mac Observer notes, “what I learned is that Apple has been looking for—and acquiring—the kind of people from Tesla with expertise that is most suited to cars. So much so that I went from being a doubter to a believer almost instantly.” He goes on:

From another source who travels in more rarified circles than yours truly, I also learned that a lot of people at the top in Silicon Valley consider it a given that Apple is working on a car. This is circumstantial, at best, but if you’re going to crowd-source wisdom, you could do a lot worse than polling the C-suite.

I should add that when I asked one of my sources flat out to put a percentage chance on Apple working on an actual car—rather than some kind of car-related technology—I was told, “80 percent.”

When coupled with everything I’ve learned since, I’m personally closer to 100 percent.


It is really unclear whether Apple is working on an “iCar” or something else, but Apple Insider also reports that, “Apple chief designer Jonathan Ive has held regular meetings with automotive executives in recent months in attempts to hire them.”

It seems almost impossible for someone to discuss Apply potentially developing a car without bringing in Tesla, and the wide assumption seems to be that the car would be electric. The thing so many forget when they talk about a newcomer competing with Tesla, however, is that it will take many years for the newcomer to get to mass production, while Tesla is already there… after starting out approximately a decade ago. Central reports that Apple is working on something of the car variety also indicate that if the product ever gets to market (definitely still an “if”), it’s several years out.

Oh yeah, also worth noting (since we’re on the planet of speculation now anyway), here’s a comment from the Tesla Motors Club forum: “I’ve read several news reports that Musk has been seen on Apple’s campus lately. Maybe this is actually a collaborative project, and maybe a creative workaround to the direct dealer ban.”

Apple is apparently behind some vans equipped with strange-looking “tentacles” attached to their roofs (which are using LiDAR modules). Again, there’s a lot of speculation about these, but it seems most likely they are simply used for mapping purposes. But who knows, maybe Apple is following Google and Tesla into the self-driving electric car realm.

The least exciting possibility of all of this is summarized well by Reuters: “It’s unclear whether the world’s largest smartphone maker is simply looking for talent to shore up CarPlay, the in-car entertainment and software service it unveiled last year that CEO Tim Cook has identified as pivotal to the company’s longer-term future.”

But the thing is, the anonymous source who talked to the Financial Times is leaning toward something bigger (literally): “Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” the source was quoted as saying by the Financial Times. “Today I think it’s a car,” the person said.

I’ll close with an extended quote from a Tesla Motors Club forum member with his own Tesla source:

I first reported this rumor on 1/1/15: Rumor: Apple buying Tesla – Page 9

Although the information was hearsay that came via a former Tesla engineer who heard it from a current engineer, it was clear that Tesla was taking this very seriously. My understanding is that significant raises were given to keep employees from jumping ship (nowhere near what Apple was offering). My source also offered a bit of snark: the employees that did leave for Apple were not Tesla’s best talent.

If you look at my past posts, you’ll see that my source has proven to be credible: Confirmation of AWD Supercar long before the D reveal; also that we would see the AWD Supercar before the X. My source was wrong, however, about the fact that there would be no regular AWD S (now known as 85D). And I’m still waiting to see that truck my source mentioned…

Back on topic: My sense is that Apple is only interested in producing a high-end, Apple-branded car that integrates iOS, not something they will be building from the bottom up.

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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37 thoughts on “Your Two Cents — Apple vs Tesla Poll

  • No factory. No tools. No suppliers. That means no Apple car anytime soon, unless Apple plans to slap its logo on someone else’s car. But, um, whose car is a threat to Tesla?

    • I’m hearing 2020.

      Apple could just buy us a smaller manufacturer and use their factory/supply stream.

      BYD, major battery maker, bought an existing Chinese car company. Brought in Daimler to upgrade body quality. And then they were in the EV/PHEV business.

      BTW, it’s not clear to me that anyone is a “threat” to Tesla. The market is enormous. Having some other high quality products on the market would help. Lots of talking = lots of free advertizing.

      • If Apple pulled a BYD, it would be perceived as slapping its name on someone else’s car.

        • No, it would be seen as the greatest car ever built even before they had a prototype on the road (by the Appleholics).

          Apple knows how to control the message. They know how to brand.

      • The market is huge, true. And Tesla already has years of lead time on them. Also, by 2020 Tesla’s model 3 will be out in production in large volume. And Tesla has built it’s company by hiring the best. This will be very interesting.

        Two companies that exceed buyer expectations, going at it.
        I think Apple can add something to the market, I just don’t know what.

        They could build a 2 person sport’s EV.
        They could build something with broad appeal like a Subaru wagon EV.
        Or, a CUV EV.

        What area of the market would the target???
        The high end?

    • There are capacities out there. A huge Apple delegation has visited Magna in Austria recently. They got EVs and are capable of delivering till 2020.

    • I really don’t know what I should think about this whole story, but there is one thing to consider:
      Apple has incredible amounts of money (180 Billion $) so if they want to do it, nobody can stop them.

  • Apple could sell used tissue paper and Apple fans would line up at 2 AM to buy it.

  • google already has one

    • Have you seen it…I’m not sure we can classify their unmanned Urkel mobile as a car.

  • I think Apple will build a car. Completely driverless and used as an Uber / Taxi asset car ( make money on your car, not spend it). Imagine a few hundred thousand cars you can call up with your Iphone. They show up and take you where you want to go. If you need your car all day you take it off line.
    This would truly reinvent the meaning of owning a car.

    • i this scenario nobody would own a car so no one will make money out of it. the cars will be owned by companies renting out there vehicles.

  • I don’t think Apple is interested in making an electric car. I think they are interested in making software for cars. If apple developed software that could drive a car they could sell that to any car company and wouldn’t have spend any money on a car factory. The software would be a lot more profitable than designing and building a new car brand.

    However to do this Apple well need software and hardware engineer familiar with the latest car software and hardware. And the best place to go for such talent in California is Tesla or the suppliers Tesla uses.

    • They might buy huge parts of that car. A huge bunch of Apple people has recently visited Magna in Austria. They supply complete drivetrains and also design complete EVs from the ground up.

    • If Apple is poaching battery tech people then they are building a car.

  • Tesla is not a competition to anyone until they are successful with a cheaper Model 3.
    Selling a substituted expensive car and selling an affordable one at numbers is a completely different game. Lets wait if their product can still compete with all other car makers in 10 years.

    Apple has visited Magna (which also aquired BluWav) who also supplies the powertrain for the electric Ford Focus and is capable of developing and building EVs completely on its own.
    Steve Zadesky, the Apple guy in charge is a former Ford employee. No wonder they went straight to Magna Steyer.
    Apple has been working on this for more than 6 month with considerable capacities. Teaming up with Magna a car is even doable before 2020.

    • I should read articles before posting…

    • If Tesla wasn’t spending $300 million on CAPEX it would be profitable today, selling 35000 cars at $100,000+. If they settled as just a Porsche competitor they would have already won.

      The fact that they are going after the battery market and the lower cost Model 3 market means they intend to be bigger. Now, what are Apple’s ambitions. It’s clear that an upperclass-stylish car would clearly be popular, profitable and successful. But what is Apple’s ambition?

      • What does a self driving car with a low per mileage cost that is quieter and rolls more smoothly than any automobile available today create? It creates a rolling office,living room,bedroom or even dinning room…

        The vehicle of tomorrow is an undiscovered space and a game changer…A space where you can eat dinner watch some movies ant go to sleep. Then wake up in a destination a thousand miles from where you stared..Fresh relaxed and ready to start you vacation..It may take more time than short mid length air travel but it’ll be less effort and less expensive..

        • “A space where you can eat dinner watch some movies ant go to sleep. Then wake up in a destination a thousand miles from where you stared..Fresh relaxed and ready to start you vacation”

          Yes, that’s called a train.

  • Apple misses deadlines just like Tesla so I think 2020 is optimistic for their very first car which will has lots of aspects they have zero experience in.

    Also, since Jobs has gone, Apple has yet to show any real breakthroughs. They just keep refining their existing products or adding their own version of products that already exist. The jury is out on wether they are the same company they once were.

    That said the more high quality, long range EV makers the better which has been Tesla’s goal all along.

  • I don’t see how it possibly makes any sense for Apple to make a car. It is so far outside their comfort zone. I think it will end up badly for them if they go all the way with it. Don’t think cooperation/synergy between Apple/Tesla exists either.

  • Telsa is going to build the best electric vehicle for a least a generation and transform the energy storage market…Apple is looking into electric cars and might someday decide to move forward in that direction. If it’s profitable enough and a good fit with the Apple’s Ethos…
    You are and eager talented young engeineer wanting to make a differnence in the world..What company would you choose? Apple will get the older engineers that desire a bigger check to put kids through school or save up for retirement.

  • Assuming any of this is true (no official news releases out there that I’m aware of), apple has a lot of catching up to do and will be far behind established front runners by the time they are able to produce anything. Based on the fact that Teslas are already on the road, producing no emissions (or at least much less) than ICEs.

    • They would buy much of the automotive part. Magna Steyer is developing EVs since years and just looking for buyers.
      They also have production capacity.
      It would still be 5-8 years to a production car.

  • Comparing a rumoured Apple car from the future with current – and proven – Tesla is simply silly.

  • I hope that Apple car doesn’t rely on Apple Maps!

  • I think Apple are planning to go onto lithium battery production first(see press for Apple poaching battery technicians) as they can see enormous prospects in the near future and the location of their new headquarters is not very far from one of the biggest lithium resources globally by Baconora Minerals and Rare Earth Minerals in northern Mexico.
    Secondly,I think Apple will then buy out Tesla due to their huge cash reserve so that they can expedite the project.

    • Tesla has to agree to be bought out and there is literally zero evidence of that happening at any point.

  • Funny, long ago I predicted iPads would replace dashboards, medical uses and argued with some nutmeg that patents should be abolished.

    Apple underutilizes its workforce in China and could start making parts for Tesla quite easily. Right now Tesla is losing money because the company is not utilizing parts suppliers properly. Anybody making most of their own parts is making most of their own mistakes–utilize the herd’s capabilities and multiply your own. They can actually get higher quality, lower weight, and lower cost for Models S=X if they improve their make or buy decision strategy and trust parts brokers.

  • I think the title (and poll choices) are silly, naive and/or misleading. Musk has said repeatedly that it is not EV maker vs EV maker, but EV vs all ICEs. Tesla would welcome Apple into its “arena”, because it validates and *helps them achieve* their goal — i.e., that of accelerating the advent of electric transport(ation). Even without building one, Apple has already done that. The author and readers here (should) know this.

  • Cars don’t even come close to fitting Apple’s business model. If you are both extremely competent and extremely lucky, you’ll see a 5-6% margin on cars (which is a very similar reason to why the “iTV” never came to be). That’s insanely far below the margins they get on any of their other items. I would bet a large amount of money that Apple will never produce a consumer vehicle. It simply doesn’t make any sense. On the flip side, I would definitely bet on them making the software and fully integrated dash for cars where margins are much, much higher and where they don’t have to invest in a completely new and fundamentally different supply chain.

      • I don’t know what to make off this. A complete list of people who where snatched up by Apple would be fun…
        Maybe Magna Steyer does not need that pack business anymore.

        Cars could go the way of consumer electronics. Especially when they are autonomous. I wonder what Google or Apple could do to car prices.
        We do have sub 10k€ ICE cars (Dacia Logan…).
        Obviously the biggest market are cheap cars.

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