Tesla has been compared to Apple numerous times over the years, and almost always in a positive light. That’s no coincidence, according to a new report from The Washington Post, which also notes that echoing Apple cuts both ways.
Resemblance to Apple is intentional, as Tesla hired Apple managers, who also brought members of their teams from Apple, bringing some of the tech giant’s culture with them, the report said, citing interviews with a half-dozen anonymous former employees who worked for both Tesla and Apple.
Tesla views itself as a tech company, not an automaker, and many of the ex-Apple staff were “dismissive” of auto-industry veterans in the company, the report said. CEO Elon Musk has been comparing Tesla to tech companies like Apple since at least 2010, and the possibility of Apple buying Tesla has been whispered about occasionally over the years.
It’s also easy to make the comparison based on products alone. Both Tesla electric cars and Apple electronics are positioned as premium products, with an aura of high-tech innovation ostensibly justifying the higher purchase price. The retail environment is even similar, as Tesla hired a former Apple executive to configure its showrooms.
Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013
Apple and Tesla also share a practice of developing a proprietary ecosystem of hardware and software for their products. Tesla has its Supercharger DC fast-charging standard, while Apple has its unique Lightning connector, for example.
Tesla customers are starting to experience the downside of that enclosed ecosystem, thanks to the automaker’s heavy-handed approach to its so-called “Full Self-Driving” feature. Tesla can unilaterally deactivate the feature (which, despite the name, does not enable autonomous driving).
Despite being software-based, it’s also non-transferable, so customers who shell out the $10,000 for purchase can’t transfer it to their next Tesla, the report noted, although Musk has said the automaker has looked at upping the trade-in values for cars equipped with the feature.
In 2016, Musk also said Apple would be building electric cars by 2020. That obviously didn’t happen, but last year Apple was reportedly in talks with Hyundai and Kia that reportedly went nowhere. Persistent reports of an “Apple Car” show that Silicon Valley—and the media covering it—views cars and electronics as essentially the same thing.