Was Apple Going to Buy Tesla? Probably Not

| Analysis

Adrian Perica, Apple's head of mergers and acquisitions, met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk almost a year ago at the iPhone and iPad maker's Cupertino offices, raising speculation that the electric car maker was a buyout target. While the notion of the a cool and innovative computer company buying a cool and innovative car designer sounds pretty sexy, it probably wasn't going to happen -- and probably wasn't even the purpose of the meeting.

Apple wants better battery tech, and Tesla is the place to startApple wants better battery tech, and Tesla is the place to start

Anonymous sources talking with the San Francisco Chronicle said Mr. Musk came to Apple's headquarters last spring where he met with Mr. Perica and possibly even CEO Tim Cook. On the surface, that looks like a fairly strong indicator that Apple was looking at buying Telsa. Once we get past the idea of driving around iCars, however, Tesla isn't a good fit for Apple.

Buying Tesla would pull Apple out of its core market, consumer electronics and services, and drop it squarely in the middle of the car industry. Apple's modus operandi is to focus on a small handful of products and do those well. Owning a high end electric car manufacturer doesn't exactly fit with that pattern.

What's more likely is that Apple and Tesla were meeting to talk about a possible collaboration. Power management and batteries are both big parts of Tesla's business since they're critica parts in making a viable electric car. For Apple, those are key areas since so many of its products -- from iPod and iPhones to Mac laptops -- rely on portable power sources.

Teaming up to develop new, more efficient, portable power sources could prove beneficial for both companies. The two are innovators and a joint effort could give us more efficient portable power sources that might even break away from tradition batteries. At the very least, they'd find interesting new ways to build on current technology for more efficient batteries.

That collaboration could be a direct technology sharing, but considering Apple's M and A boss was involved in the talks, it's possible the two companies were talking about Apple investing in Tesla, or even teaming up on a new venture that would work on battery technology independently. Both could take advantage of the new power technologies that come out of the collaboration and ultimately that means consumers get Apple tech gear that runs longer between charges.

Another place improved battery technology would help Apple is in the wearable technology market. Small devices like the rumored iWatch need long lasting yet compact power sources to be successful, and there isn't any way Apple would release a smartwatch product that needed recharging after only a few hours use.

Just because the Mergers and Acquisitions guy meets with you doesn't always mean you're about to get bought up. Apple certainly has the money to buy Tesla, but that cash makes for a better investment in battery technology than in owning a car maker.

As sexy as it sounds, Apple probably wasn't in the market to buy Tesla. They were more likely after better battery technology, and Telsa looked like a great place to start. That, or Elon Musk and Adrian Perica are friends and wanted to get together for lunch.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]

Comments

John Dingler, artist

Seems to me that Apple’s practice in new technology acquisitions is to purchase companies that become elaborations and enhancements, in other words, features, to Apple’s existing products, not a new branch of commercial activity.

Tesla Motors is not, and can not be made into, a feature as far as I can tell. For this reason, therefore, I doubt that Apple is out to make this particular, wholesale purchase.

Lee Dronick

Or perhaps discussion on using iOS 7, or some other Apple OS, for communicating with the auto.

CudaBoy

  Whatever discussion was had a YEAR ago is moot today. About a year ago I suggested a partnership between Apple and Tesla to make the Tesla UI and infotainment all Apple. Obviously, Apple didn’t.
  A year later, the two companies are on different paths, one is holding it’s own albeit with no new products in years - only catch-up updates; and the other company’s stock multiplied by a factor of more than 10 and has 2 new models coming out and is changing the whole paradigm of driving. Moot isn’t strong enough a word for that year old meeting.

Log-in to comment