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Elon Musk: ‘If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple’

Elon Musk
Dan Taylor
Consider the shots fired.

During an interview with German publication Handelsblatt (subscription required), Tesla’s oft-quoted CEO Elon Musk had some choice words to say about Apple, which may or may not be building a car of its own.

“They have hired people we’ve fired,” said the executive. “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

As we noted in our Apple Car rumor roundup, the multinational tech giant recently hired Jamie Carlson, a former senior engineer from Tesla with expertise in the brand’s self-driving Autopilot technologies. Before that, he developed “automotive vision systems” for Gentex Corp, a private outfit that manufactures military and law enforcement equipment. Despite that, though, Musk doesn’t seem overly worried about Apple’s automotive aspirations.

“Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch?” he asked with a laugh. “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.”

Along with Apple’s acquisition of Carlson, the firm also recently picked up Doug Betts, who has more than 21 years of quality control experience at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Nissan, Toyota, Michelin, and General Motors.

Musk’s interview wasn’t all Apple-centric though. When asked about the role German manufacturers will play in the future of electromobility, he touched on Volkswagen’s ongoing Dieselgate scandal.

“The longer the delay of getting into electric cars, the worse off the German car industry will be,” he explained. “We have reached the limit of physics for what gasoline and diesel can do. You see what’s happened with the current diesel scandal at Volkswagen. In order to make progress, they apparently had to cheat. I think if you intentionally mislead governments around the world with software that is designed to only be effective at the test stand, this is a very conscious action.”

“I don’t think anyone really profits from this kind of situation,” Musk continued. “But the best thing that could come out of this is a decision to abandon oil-based transportation — and for Volkswagen to make a very serious move towards electromobility.”

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