By on October 29, 2013

Tesla-Model-S. Photo courtesy AutoWeek.com

It’s one thing for Tesla Motors to be the Apple of motoring. It’s another for Apple to be the Apple of motoring. The solution, according to one analyst: Apple should buy Tesla to remain profitable long after the gold rush of smartphones and tablets has disappeared from the rear view mirror.

CNN Money reports an analyst for the German investment bank Berenberg, one Adnaan Ahmad, has penned an open letter to both Apple CEO Tim Cook and chairman Arthur Levinson, strongly suggesting they pay a visit to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s high-tech lab — no doubt interrupting his Lotus submarine studynot with a demand for Doug Field’s return to One Infinite Loop, but with a Halliburton briefcase full of cash. At least five of them.

Why? According to Ahmad, purchasing the EV automaker down the road would allow Apple to obtain the type of growing revenues that will keep the computer maker in the green for a long time to come, something that no iPhone or iPad can guarantee once the age of hipster gadgetry draws to a close. Ahmad also believes that Apple’s habit of disrupting developing markets, such as telephony and tablet computing, is just what the doctor ordered for the auto industry in the United States, leading to a much more rapid transition to hybrid and electric vehicles of all shapes and colors.

As for Musk’s role, Ahmad believes Cook and Levinson “could strike up a partnership [with Musk] and obtain a new iconic partner to lead Apple’s innovation drive,” invoking the spirit of late Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs while imploring the current guard to go outside of the box once again.

And if Cook and Levinson don’t heed his words? Then, per Ahmad, “the key debate will always be about [Apple's] ability to sustain these abnormal margins in [their] iPhone business.”

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75 Comments on “Analyst to Apple CEO, Chairman: Buy Tesla...”


  • avatar
    Wacko

    So if apple buys Tesla, will they change the charging port(plug) every 2-3 years, just to make sure that you have to buy a new car.

    You wont be able to change the battery, And the battery wont last as long as stated.

    • 0 avatar
      tinbad

      I like your sense of humor, but let’s not confuse it for facts: Apple has changed the ipod/iphone connector only once in the 13 years it’s been for sale.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Actually, they have changed it several times in the US, and not in Europe where that is illegal now. The latest change in the physical plug is not the first change. The previous changes have all been internal, and can cause the charger not to work with other models – even when it actually will work.

        Yes, that sounds contradictory, but there was one model change that caused the new phone to recognize the old charger and not charge itself. If you turned off the phone, then plugged in the charger, the software would not stop the charge.

        While it seems petty, it likely makes hundreds of millions for them.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          True, but never “to make sure you have to buy a new one”. There were always sound technical reasons for reassigning pins.

          (And I’m old enough to remember having a first-generation iPod, which used FireWire. So this isn’t even the first physical-connector change.)

          I don’t know about you, but I always bought third-party chargers; Apple’s changes (IIRC it was only the FW-over-30-pint to USB-over-30-pin change that made charging stop over the gap) didn’t get them a cent from me…

      • 0 avatar
        Wacko

        So you never had a firewire and / or usb ipod before??

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      The battery in my iPad mini is rated for 10 hours of use but I regularly get 13 hours of use before it dies.

    • 0 avatar

      Will you be able to use USB or SD to bypass iTunes?

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Kurzweil is an idea guy but many of his predictions are way off the wall. Even the sudden miraculous development of 90% efficient solar cells would not make oil (or nuclear) obsolete. There are many other practical, physical and political problems.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    I’ve met Steve Jobs and Elon Musk is no Steve Jobs.

    If this analyst posted his letter in an online forum, he would be accused of trolling and no one would pay him any attention.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You’re right – Steve Jobs never launched spacecraft that docked with the International Space Station.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Tim Cook was my boss for three years in the early 90s — I reported directly to him. He’s a very intelligent, cautious, and conservative businessman who would never in a million years entertain buying into the headache of the automobile market. Neither would Steve Jobs, who appreciated Mercedes vehicles but had no desire to dabble in that industry, either.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        I worked in the same building as Steve Wozniak for 2 years from 96-98 and at the time, he drove a Hummer. Not a wimpy H2 mind you, but the real thing. Very un-Tesla of him I must say.

        This one makes no sense. Apple needs to do something with that cash hoard, but it won’t be cars.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    The panicked antics of Saudi Arabia (recently turning down a seat at the UN Security Council) indicates the future of Tesla (particularly when coupled with solar power) is very very very bright. Saudi Arabis is presently panic-buying solar technology.

    Ray Kurzweil has predicted that oil will be “obsolete” in less than 20 years, given that both electric cars and solar power stand to undergo brutal, feverish, and exponential step-growth ala’ “Moores Law.”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You’re drawing some very feeble connections here.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Kurzweil is great at being wrong.

      (Moore’s law? What does Moore’s law have to do with anything but semiconductors? And, well, it’s winding down for them, ain’t it? It’s not a law of nature, but a contingent historical observation.)

      Saudi might be “panic-buying” solar, but if they are they’re doing it 1) because they don’t have giant shale reserves and 2) they’re not real bright (at the national level); if they were they’d be building nuclear plants.

      (* Also, what does a rotating Security Council seat have to do with solar power or Tesla or oil? Explain how turning that down helps Saudi Arabia in any area mentioned…?)

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The Saudis aren’t listening to Ray Kurzweil, they’re scared of shale oil development tripling the supply of oil and killing OPEC pricing power. An energy self-sufficient America alone will cause a collapse of oil prices. The arab world lives in a relatively modern patch of the world built and maintained by the west and paid for with petro dollars. Cut out the oil income and the authoritarian regimes will be unable to buy off their restive populations and will be overthrown.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    At a glance it seems like this might be a match made in heaven. However, knowing Musk’s personality, I highly doubt he would be satisfied taking orders from Tim Cook let alone anyone. Also, the Auto industry is waaaay out of Apple’s wheelhouse. The transition from PC’s to smartphones wasn’t as big of a jump as they are essentially smaller computers. Cars are a whole other ball game with more regulations, labor contracts, supplier issues, etc…

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “Also, the Auto industry is waaaay out of Apple’s wheelhouse.”

      You say it like it’s a bad thing.

      http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2012/08/microsoft-lost-mojo-steve-ballmer

      Many large companies are nothing but a vast accumulation of bad habits. Sometimes a more efficient upstart can upset the status quo.

      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/the-inside-story-of-why-blackberry-is-failing/article14563602/?page=all

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Apple can produce about a quarter in net income for every dollar that it takes in.

        On a good day, an automaker will make about eight cents. On less than a good day, about four cents.

        Tesla is currently making no cents at all.

        Apple acquiring Tesla would be a great way to reduce the value of Apple. Automaking is and will remain a low margin business, and nobody is going to change that.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      I would assume that it would be run like a conglomerate (think old GM, and Fuji Heavy Industries) where Tesla would not nessasrily take orders from the Ipod maker. Tesla could benefit from this ‘marriage’ by having strong finacial backing and capital to get them past any bumps in the road, such as the cyclical nature of the car industry, which could potentially unrail and bring down this young company.

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla’s current stock price does not make it look like a very good investment right now, and I’m a person who admires the company enormously.

      Tesla may eventually become a takeover target, but this isn’t the time.

      D

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Fantasy merger time! It feels like 1998 all over again.

  • avatar
    imag

    Better be sure their maps work.

  • avatar
    Topher

    A buyout by Apple would honestly discourage me from buying a Tesla. I’ve never been a big Apple fan, but I’ve always admired their hardware. The one thing that keeps me from purchasing any Apple products is the company’s ego, perfectly captured when Jobs told customers “you’re holding it wrong”.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      +1

      I have and would never buy an apple product based on this and their massive focus on style over substance.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        As a person with a lot of background in tech, I can assure you that there is a value proposition with Apple much more important than style. Interface is not a value less thing. Neither is dependability and security.

        I spend almost zero time maintaining my apple products, while I spent days per year maintaining windows machines. DOS was less hassle than windows.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Yup, my experience with Apple products has been very good. It started with an iPod to replace a Dell DJ. Now I have around a dozen Apple products in the house and I rarely have to troubleshoot them. They all just play so nicely together. The Apple TV streams ripped movies from my iMac, the iPhone functions as a remote for the Apple TV (particularly nice when my daughter decides to hide it), and photos from my DSLR automatically move to my phone and tablet via photostream. All of these things are probably doable via other hardware and 3rd party apps, but all of it being native and working across the board is just fantastic. I love the way that OSX has been kept as a computer OS but still plays nicely with IOS rather trying to make one OS do it all like Windows has done with many aspects of 8. I was an Apple hater for a long time, but they really do make great products.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Correct. Me too. I’m not interested in buying a new and improved, more flimsy phone every 2 months, for too much money. Or standing outside for 8 hours awaiting its release.

        • 0 avatar
          OM617

          Um, why don’t you wait a few days / weeks then? You think most users wait in those lines?

          My iPhone 5 gets dropped often, there is nothing flimsy about it, nor do I cycle through new ones often. Our family has given away previous models that continue to hum along quite well 4-5 years later.

          you can like/dislike whatever, just don’t use flimsy arguments…

        • 0 avatar
          Tosh

          “Or standing outside for 8 hours awaiting its release.”
          Anyone who’s anyone hires a poor Chinese girl to do this for you (kinda like how Apple assembles their stuff).

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      He was right.

      Everyone else’s phone also had “don’t hold it like that” in the manuals.

      Somehow this was only a “problem” with Apple – because that gets pageviews and clicks.

      See, e.g. http://dontholditwrong.tumblr.com/

      Galaxy S4? Samsung’s top-end competitor, sold right now? Manual says “Don’t cover the antenna with your hands or other objects”.

      You’re. Holding. It. Wrong.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    So an analysist just with no influence wants people to take him serious, with such prepostorous ideas?
    I sense an underlying agenda.

    Apple without Steve jobs has been going down the drain as fast as it can, and joining a company that gets funny money from selling companies illegitimate credits that haven’t the slightest bit of value, isn’t a plan for success.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Apple buying Tesla reminds me of AOL buying Time Warner. That didn’t work well for either of them.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Clearly Apple could indeed take on established car companies and blow them completely out of the water, provided it injected the same innovation into three critical bottlenecks presently artificially stalling the adoption of electric cars. All three bottlenecks are incredibly vulnerable to massive technological disruption:

    – Solar Power: It is estimated, by Kurzweil, that solar cell technology is vulnerable to revolutionary, rapid technological disruption to the tune of very quickly having photovoltaic cells that convert 80 percent of solar energy into electricity;

    – Dramatically faster charging systems that will make recharging electric cars about as fast as filling up ICE cars;

    – Battery Technology: This is already going through an extremely dramatic sea change of violent technological disruption. I have argued with career auto mechanics about the capability of Lithium-Ion batteries coupled with high voltage motors. And watched them gasp when I remove lug nuts one-handed with my Dewalt battery powered impact drill. That is how fast this technology is changing.

    Saudi Arabia’s panicked behavior (and public pronouncements) just in the last month in reaction to the fracking phenomena (an interim technology at best)seals the argument in support of Kurzweil’s prediction almost immediate oil obsolescence.

    Bear in mind, established auto companies make most of their money on servicing vehicles, not selling them. Electric cars require virtually no servicing.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      If Saudis felt threatened Over the possibility of oil becoming obsolete, couldn’t they just flood the market with cheap oil, causing cheaper sources of energy such as coal and NG to lose traction?

      The bigger problem then with both of these arguments is that we ( America) no longer gets a significant amount of oil from the Middle East, thus our oil money is mostly going back into our economy or into friendly territories.
      Therefore if nothing else why do the Saudis care about a niche vehicle market with little interest by the average consumer?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There were some very interesting posts in the 1973 Oil Crisis article along those lines. Depending on who or what your believe this might be not be possible.

        • 0 avatar
          Larry P2

          Neither the Saudis nor what was going on in 1974 anticipated the role of exponential technology.

          Just take solar for instance. Right now Solar supplies about 1 percent of the world’s energy (even though the earth is bathed in 10,000 more sunlight than it needs). In 1974 (and the Saudis presently), everybody thought in linear terms. Take 30 steps and you are 30 steps down the road. High technology is not linear, it is exponential. Each step DOUBLES the previous capacity. 30 steps forward means that you are billions of steps forward in capability.

          Solar is the only energy source that is exponential. It falls entirely within Moore’s law. In just five years, the cost of solar will be equal cost wise to any other source of energy. In 20 years, it will be far far cheaper. That is when the energy Singularity is reached, and oil becomes obsolete.

          Google is investing feverishly into nano-engineered solar technology. Established Automakers are clearly reluctant (most particularly Toyota) to invest in the development of better batteries. The writing is clearly on the wall for established automakers, and they are low hanging fruit for the next quantum exponential technological explosion.

          Viva La Revolucion!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You do love your adjectives.

            Feverishly
            Quantum
            Explosion
            Exponential
            Dramatically
            Incredibly
            Massive
            Virtually

            You could write for Yahoo.

        • 0 avatar
          Larry P2

          1973 was many generations ago technology wise. In 1973, we talked on rotary-dialed telephones through copper wires.

          At present, given the developing technology, ICE is the equivalent of rotary-dialed telephones.

      • 0 avatar
        Larry P2

        “If Saudis felt threatened Over the possibility of oil becoming obsolete, couldn’t they just flood the market with cheap oil, causing cheaper sources of energy such as coal and NG to lose traction?”

        They could try, but that is going to be an increasingly weak response to a violent technological revolution, one that is proceeding right under everyone’s nose. The Saudi’s ability to flood the market with cheap oil will not be able to keep up with the technological “doublings” of solar power.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Do you have any concrete information to share about this apparent solar revolution you’re talking about?

          So far investment in this area has not shown to be cost effective or deliver a good ROI at all, ditto for electric cars. Thus I wouldn’t blame anyone for being skeptical about investing in it.

          • 0 avatar
            Larry P2

            Yeah, the really astute investors in 2008 and 2009 were putting the smart money into Blackberry, which had just released its newest touchscreen smartphone (The “Storm”).

            Afterall, nobody would think a company like Apple could possibly know anything about phones, right?

            How’s that blackberry investment working out for them I wonder?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            That has nothing to do with what I asked.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            How’s that solyndra investment working out?

            Seriously that was way off topic.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    …and this, boys and girls, is why we all make major decisions in our lives based on what some stock analyst says.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    This is just about the silliest thing I’ve read in the last 10 minutes.

    The closest Apple would ever get to doing something so stupid would be to do their own equivalent of MS’s Sync, except that it would look good, be fun and engaging to use, and work properly.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      On a related note, Google has developed (and is using) a self-driving Prius. They’re at the forefront of autonomous vehicles, and I can see them doing a big tie-up with an auto company in the near future (probably Toyota).

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I think Ahmad makes some interesting points. The automotive industry is very traditional and definitely rife with disruption opportunities. Perhaps a first baby step would be Tesla asking Apple to be a consultant for their direct-retail business. It would present no risk to Apple but they get a taste of what’s going on.

    Automotive manufacturers are not the masters of engineering they used to be. Instead IMO they are masters of design, logistics and assembly. Sounds kind of like Apple, huh? The days of unique, significant and marketable engine technologies and improvements are basically gone or dwindling (think Hemi, VTEC, direct injection, even turbos). Now all of these are commonplace or irrelevant. Replace all complexities associated with an ICE with those of a battery/motor drive and the entry barriers are much lower for a company such as Apple to enter the marketplace.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Whoever conjures up the next revolution in batteries and solar will temporarily own the entire gold mine, just like Apple did at first with the iphone.

    Everything temporarily holding back electric cars is purely technological in nature, and on the cusp of an exponential solution.

    Yeah, I use too many adjectives. But the ramifications of solar-charged electric cars with sufficient range is truly earth-shattering.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The real title of this story is: “Analyst Worried Over his Position in TSLA, Seeks White Knight with Bags of Cash for Rescue.”

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Imagine steering a car with an old-school iPod click-wheel!

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Drive different! :)

      But this is not as outrageous as it sounds. There were hints that Steve Jobs toyed with the idea of Apple making a car:

      http://www.businessinsider.com/steve-jobs-said-he-wanted-apple-to-eventually-make-a-car-2013-2

      It’s a shallow article, and it uses the term “iCar”, so it’s more an exercise in speculation.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Wait a minute: he’s suggesting Apple buy a CAR company in the hope of ensuring future ridiculous high-volume sales and profits? It’d make just as much sense to suggest Apple buy an airline.

    Tesla is not doing a single thing that cannot be replicated by somebody else, should the volumes rise high enough to make it worthwhile. Sure, in the luxury electric-car market, they have a formidable lead. But that’s not the stuff replacing an eventual Apple margin or revenue downturn is made of.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “It’d make just as much sense to suggest Apple buy an airline.”

      Now there’s a great idea. The legacy of Steve Jobs teams up with Elon Musk and Richard Branson to unleash a trifecta of trendiness on the world never seen before. Maybe later, they’ll consider letting the Dyson vacuum guy join their club too.

  • avatar
    rdsymmes

    If Apple went into the car business with Tesla they would make a small fortune…….out of Apple’s very large one.

  • avatar

    http://news.boldride.com/2013/10/another-model-s-goes-up-in-flames-should-tesla-be-concerned-wvideo/38539/?utm_source=BoldRide.com+Newsletter&utm_campaign=31f92dc5ed-boldride_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_55d035cf18-31f92dc5ed-338735373

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I congratulate Musk for correctly identifying a market segment in which an electric car might succeed: rich people toys. And he build a very nice toy.

    I also congratulate him on playing the government like a violin. Tesla is subsidized like no other car. Not only are there direct subsidies to the purchaser in the form of state and local income tax credits (I thought rich people were supposed to pay more taxes, not less) sales tax exemptions (no small thing on a $100K car), road use tax exemptions (since these taxes are not imposed on the motor fuel used by Tesla — coal, natural gas or nuclear energy) and who knows what subsidies to the company itself. But the government-created market for carbon emission credits has created a huge revenue source for the company. So, Tesla produces and sells two products: automobiles and emission credits.

    Right now, Tesla is not disrupting anything, not even the market for luxury automotive toys. Although one might say that it is disrupting the pockets of taxpayers who fund the various subsidies that flow to Tesla.

    Say what you will about Apple, but the fact is that Apple has come to market with a series of ground-breaking products, each of which has succeeded on its own merits and not with the help of direct government subsidies. AFAIC, there is no comparison between the two.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Right now, Tesla is not disrupting anything”

      Well, Tesla has been quite disruptive to various car blogs.

      But no, it’s certainly not a disruptive technology or business model.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Whatever you think of the actual product, Tesla the stock is about the biggest bubble I can think of.

    I happen to think they make a great car and am glad they moved the ball forward with electric cars in general, but I could easily see the company going out of business in a few years once major manufacturers start introducing their own electric vehicles and Tesla’s sexy sedan is no longer so trendy.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I could easily see the company going out of business in a few years once major manufacturers start introducing their own mobile phones and Apple’s sexy phone is no longer so trendy.

      Said someone in 2007 when Apple stock was at $108/share. I mean RIM and Nokia will bury Apple…for sure!

      Tesla is risky though, that’s for sure.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    About the Solyndra collapse: It powerfully demonstrated analogizing Moore’s law to photovoltaics. Solyndra’s swift collapse was brought about by the completely-unexpected free fall of flat panel solar collector prices. Solar panel prices were collapsing so fast, that no matter how superior Solyndra’s design (and it clearly WAS a superior design)it was no match for dirt cheap Chinese panels. Solyndra collapsed in the summer of 2011. Since then solar panel prices have fallen another 75 percent! And nobody is predicting that they will stay even at the current level.

    New materials, new production methods and new technology will only make the transition to solar energy faster. Much faster. Google is presently investing billions in Solar Energy. Solar is adhering to Kurzweil’s exponential “step doubling” every 18 months.

    While battery development is not as rapid as computers or solar, it too is also clearly exponential rather than merely linear in its progress. Probably its “doublings” are every five years rather than the 18 months of Moore’s Law. 5 years ago Tesla batteries and their energy densities were about half what they are now. Envia has batteries in the lab that are twice the energy density of Tesla today.

    Lastly, electric car manufacturing itself requires much much less engineering resources that are far more decentralized than ICE manufacturing. It is ideal for the Silicon Valley model of innovation, instead of the Detroit model. I would predict that most of the investment in the development of electric cars, batteries and solar power will come from Silicon Valley. That unprecedented synergy alone makes it ripe for rapid technological advances that are completely unknown as of today.

    My personal prediction: A range of 200 miles with a 15 minute solar-powered fast charge for $20k in five years.

    Saudi Arabia. Iran. Venezuela.

    Tilt.

    Game over.

    • 0 avatar
      E46M3_333

      Your breathless posts have more emotion than substance. I can tell you from first hand experience that battery energy density takes ten years to double, not five. The 18650s in the Tesla have progressed like:

      1994: 800mAh
      2004: 1600 mAh
      2014: 3200 mAh

      This rate is likely to slow rather than increase in the future as LiIon chemistry is beginning to hit limits in terms of upper voltage, stability of the electrolyte and safety. Mechanical improvements in cell design–thinner separators and thinner foils–are beginning to run into limits too.

      Solar panels have been running 10-15% efficiency for as long as I can remember. What makes you think that efficiency will suddenly jump to 80%? The fact that the Saudis or anyone else are investing in solar is not an answer.

      15 minute solar powered fast charge? Have you done the math on how much power transfer is involved in getting 200 miles of range into a battery in 15 minutes? The Tesla S’s ~200 mile battery is 85 KWh, so filling that pack in .25 hours requires 340 KW, not counting any losses associated with the charger. Providing that much power only requires 2267 150 watt solar panels, covering roughly half an acre, priced at $528 per panel, or $1.2M worth of solar panels.

      I know Larry, math is hard. In short, you’re an idiot.
      .
      .

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        There are some interesting solar technologies that might succeed. Some researchers are experimenting with artificial photosynthetic systems for generating fuel. It’s also known as “green gasoline.” The down-side is that they think it’s about 20 years away. Anyway. it’s an interesting article:

        http://phys.org/news/2013-10-air-sun-ingredients-green-gasoline.html

  • avatar
    Turkina

    Why do they call these people ‘anal’ysts?
    Half the time poop comes out, and the rest is passing wind.
    Write some BS, put it out there, get paid. Wipe and repeat.

    I don’t see a very valid argument other than “They’re both cool, so they should get together and make the ultimate in hip, cool products!”

    Google + Toyota or other automaker is more likely, but one would not buy the other. Google licensing auto-drive, or teaming up to create the integrated technology is more like it.

  • avatar
    bugmen0t

    I can hardly think of a worse fate for Tesla. Apple needs to die and join its master in hell.


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