Elon Musk: Can't Cut it at Tesla? Go Work for Apple

Sure, Apple is hiring Tesla employees—presumably for its own electric car project code named Titan—but they're the people that've been fired. CEO Elon Musk says Apple is the "Tesla Graveyard," and the people who can't cut it working for him go there.

Elon Musk says Apple hires the engineers he firesElon Musk says Apple hires the engineers he fires

It's no secret Apple and Tesla have both been hiring away employees from each other. When Handelsblatt asked Mr. Musk about Apple stealing away some of his most important engineers, he replied,

Important engineers? They have hired people we've fired. 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.

Reports of Apple's plans to make an electric car have been circulating for months. Car makers have dismissed Apple saying a computer maker can't get into the car business and expect to be successful, just like mobile phone makers said when Apple introduced the first iPhone.

Mr. Musk said this is, however, the path Apple needs to take. "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," he said. "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."

Assuming Apple's push into the car market is successful, it could be a big boost for the electric car market and specifically Tesla. Mr. Musk has been growing Tesla, but hasn't yet gone mainstream with his cars, and electric cars as a whole are still a niche market.

So far, the electric car market has been more of a playground where auto makers have been able to dabble without worrying about real competition, Tesla included. With Apple entering the game, car makers may start ramping up their efforts and turn the friendly playground into a battle zone.

That could be great for Tesla because Mr. Musk has a head start in the market, but it also means he needs to make sure he's ready for some serious competition. Apple seems to be playing for keeps and if other car makers see value in the market, they'll be pushing hard to win consumers, too.

As to whether or not Apple is hiring engineers Elon Musk fired, it doesn't seem likely company CEO Tim Cook would be willing to take on incompetent employees, especially for a project as important as Titan. Mr. Musk's comments about the hires feel more like posturing, which seems like a smart business move because Apple will undoubtedly come out swinging when it finally unveils its car.