Elon Musk bashes Apple, journalists and critics amid Tesla profits

Elon Musk slammed press coverage of Tesla crashes that may have involved its “autopilot” feature, pushed back on child-labor concerns and even took multiple digs at Apple after the electric car maker reported record results.

Tesla late Monday released its second-quarter earnings, which showed that record sales of its lower-priced Model 3 and Model Y cars helped the company post more than $1 billion in profit — 10 times what it made a year earlier.

But it wasn’t Tesla’s numbers that seemed to preoccupy the eccentric tech tycoon on a Monday conference call with analysts, where Musk was prone to taking potshots at competitors and journalists alike, even as he pushed back at accusations that Tesla has been complicit in child-labor scandals.

“It is our goal to support the advent of sustainable energy. It is not to create a walled garden and use that to bludgeon our competitors, which is sometimes used by some companies,” Tesla’s self-proclaimed “Technoking” said during an investor call Monday.

Musk then coughed and added, “Apple” — an apparent reference to the battle between the iPhone maker and app developers like Epic Games over Apple’s strict App Store rules and high fees.

Musk made the comments in response to a question about Tesla’s plans to open up its “supercharger” network to electric vehicles made by competitors.

Still, Tesla shares were down 1.7 percent at $646.27 shortly after markets opened Tuesday, according to MarketWatch data.

App store logo
Elon Musk referenced the battle between Apple and developers like Epic Games over the iPhone maker’s strict App Store rules and high fees.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Elsewhere in the investor call, Musk referenced Apple’s use of cobalt — a rare element used by both Tesla and Apple that has been tied to the use of deadly child labor.

“There’s somehow a misconception that Tesla uses a lot of cobalt, but we actually don’t,” he said. “Apple uses I think almost 100 percent cobalt in their batteries in cellphones and laptops… On a weighted average basis, we might use 2 percent cobalt compared to, say, Apple’s 100 percent cobalt.”

Both Apple and Tesla have been accused of aiding and abetting in the death of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to their alleged use of cobalt mined by child slaves, the Guardian reported in 2019. The companies have denied wrongdoing.

Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Both Apple and Tesla have been accused of aiding and abetting in the death of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to their alleged use of cobalt mined by child slaves.
Getty Images

While Apple and Tesla do not currently compete directly, Apple is reportedly working on a self-driving car in a project led by former Tesla executive Doug Field — and Musk has a history of trashing Apple for hiring ex-Tesla employees.

“They have hired people we’ve fired,” Musk said in 2015. “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.”

Also during Monday’s call, the South African billionaire excoricated journalists’ coverage of a deadly Model S crash in Houston in April, in which many media outlets reported that Tesla’s “autopilot” feature may have been in in use despite Musk’s denials.

“Those journalists should be ashamed of themselves,” Musk said, condemning “extremely deceptive media practices.”

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the wreck in May but has not ruled out the possibility that autopilot was engaged.

Surprisingly, Tesla’s investments in bitcoin did not come up during Monday’s investor call. The company reported $23 million in losses related to the cryptocurrency but did not sell any of its holdings during the second quarter, according to Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures.

Musk also said Monday that he will not talk on future Tesla earnings calls unless he has “something really important to say.”

“I will no longer default to doing earnings calls,” he said. “Obviously I’ll do the annual shareholder meeting, but I think that going forward I will most likely not be on earnings calls unless there’s something really important that I need to say.”

Outrageous comments during investor calls have been a signature for Musk.

In an April investor call last year, Musk slammed coronavirus lockdowns as “fascist” during a profane rant, while in 2018 he lambasted analysts on the call for asking “boring, bonehead questions.”

Leave a Comment