Apple has reportedly poached one of Tesla’s former engineering maestros, escalating a heated debate between two of the world’s biggest tech companies.
The Californian tech behemoth hired Tesla’s former vice president of vehicle engineering Chris Porritt, electrek reported this week.
Experts said the move signalled Apple’s continued push for a foothold in the electric car industry, estimated to be worth $US103 billion by 2017.
It’s also the latest instalment in a bitter tug-of-war between the companies, which have increasingly been poaching each other’s staff.
However, the acquisition of Mr Porritt was the first time Apple had employed one of Tesla’s former top brass.
And while Tesla remained the undisputed leader in electric car manufacturing, it hasn’t stopped its boss Elon Musk bristling at the steady stream of his former employees moving to Apple.
“They have hired people we’ve fired,” Mr Musk told German newspaper Handelsblatt in late 2015.
“We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard’. If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple.”
Queensland University of Technology IT expert Professor Michael Rosemann told The New Daily the move suggested Apple was starting to significantly ramp up its electric car plans.
“The whole team in Apple’s car development program has apparently grown quite a bit,” Professor Rosemann said.
“It is a complete different challenge for Apple to compete with Tesla on electric cars.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple tried to leapfrog Tesla’s capabilities.”
Apple’s ‘Titan’ car will be a slow burn
Apple was reportedly aiming to have released its first car project – tentatively named Titan – by 2019.
But experts don’t think the first Apple car would make the company a fortune.
“It’s with the second generation, and third and fourth and so on, that Apple often wins over the masses – once it has refined the features and pricing,” tech expert Johana Bhutan wrote in re/code.
“The bottom line is, the company eventually wins.
“It’s likely that with the second generation of Apple’s electric (or maybe self-driving!) cars, we’ll see an inflection point on the road to mainstream adoption of, or at least consumer trust in, self-driving electric vehicles.”
Electric travel website electrek wrote on Tuesday: “It’s clear that the two companies share a lot of former colleagues.
“Tesla’s senior engineering staff and leadership are full of former Apple directors and VPs, while the Cupertino-based company hired quite a few former Tesla engineers.”
Apple’s former head of the “Titan” electric car project left the company recently and it was believed Mr Porritt was hired as his replacement.
It was also reported Mr Porritt was now the highest-ranked “car person” within Apple. Mr Porritt was also once the top engineer at Land Rover and Aston Martin.
Tesla had reported sold more than 125,000 electric cars worldwide since 2008.
A Tesla Model S, the company’s flagship model, was priced at $A123,593. Tesla produced mostly electric luxury and sports vehicles.