Say what you will about Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the man is not one to pull any punches. During a recent interview with the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, Musk addressed the ongoing hiring battle the company is seemingly engaged in with Apple. Amidst reports pointing to Apple releasing its own electric car, you might recall that Apple over the past few months has poached a number of Tesla engineers. What’s more, you might remember a report claiming that Apple was luring over Tesla engineers with signing bonuses in the $250,000 range along with a 60% bump up in salary.
While this might be par for the course in Silicon Valley, it’s not really a problem that Tesla has historically had to deal with in any serious way. If anything, Tesla is typically the company luring over talented engineers and executives, not the other way around.
All that said, is the outspoken Tesla CEO worried about a brain drain?
Not in the slightest.
When asked about Tesla losing important engineers to Apple, Musk bluntly stated that Apple simply hires the people that Tesla fires. Taking things even further comedically, Musk added that he and some of his Tesla cohorts jokingly call Apple the Tesla Graveyard.
“If you don’t make it at Tesla,” Musk added with emphasis, “you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”
When subsequently asked if he took Apple’s car ambitions seriously, Musk responded:
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.
So I guess it’s finally safe to say that Musk probably isn’t all that excited about watchOS 2, right?
Now as cavalier as Musk was in his comments, let’s not forget that poaching in Silicon Valley goes both ways. Just as Apple is keen on luring over Tesla engineers, Tesla is no stranger to luring over talent from Apple. Earlier this year, a report surfaced claiming that Tesla, as of February 2015, had hired 150 former Apple employees, a figure which isn’t all that surprising given how important software is to the Tesla user experience.
With Apple allegedly aiming to release an all-electric car by 2019, it’s a safe bet that Musk will let out a few more anti-Apple zingers in the interim.