Elon Musk suggested Thursday during a Twitter Spaces with Ford CEO Jim Farley that Tesla could open up some of its car operating system code to other car manufacturers.
“In the same way that Android might be useful to the phone industry as kind of a common standard, like we could potentially open up more code,” Musk said. If Tesla takes that leap, it will compete with Google, which has developed a car operating system based on Android, and Apple.
Musk responded to Farley’s comment that making a “fully software-updatable vehicle” is “super hard.” The billionaire executive said Tesla would be happy to be “helpful on the software front.”
Musk made the comment during a Twitter Spaces used to announce a milestone deal between Tesla and Ford. Under the deal announced Thursday, Ford’s EV customers will get access to the Tesla Supercharging network in the USA and Canada. More importantly, Ford agreed to include Tesla’s charging port in its second-generation EVs, which include a truck and three-row SUV, starting in 2025.
Musk often spouts ideas for Tesla at live events, some of which come to fruition and some that don’t. If Tesla tried to market its over-the-air software update for other vehicles, it would put the automaker in direct competition with Google and Apple.
Google offers car manufacturers Android Automotive operating system, which is modeled after the open source mobile operating system running on Linux and adapted for use in cars. Apple also jumped into the OS game last June when it was announced that is it Next-generation CarPlay is intended to power the entire instrument panel of a vehicle. Both tech companies also offer a middleware product called Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that connects a user’s phone to a car’s infotainment system.
Supply chain partnerships
Musk and Farley also hinted Thursday at other potential collaborations in the future, including in the supply chain.
Ford’s CEO questioned Musk about Tesla’s new Corpus Christi lithium refinery. Ford has recently closed a series of dealsalso with Albemarle and SQM, to ensure the automaker has access to lithium.
Musk repeated previous woes that there aren’t enough entrepreneurs in the US involved in mining and processing raw materials, and that he wished Tesla didn’t have to pick up the slack. He said the company has a nickel-based cathode refinery in Austin and may also need to get involved in anodes production, but “hopefully not.”
Musk noted that there will be a huge market for synthetic graphite (graphite is the main material in most lithium ion anodes).
The two CEOs have nevertheless remained friendly at times compete against each other. Musk has praised the automaker in the past, pointing out on several occasions that only Tesla and Ford have done so avoid bankruptcy.
Ford, like other older automakers, is still aiming to dethrone Tesla as the No. 1 seller of electric cars in the United States. Ford still has a way to go.
In 2022, Ford sold 61,575 EVs in the U.S. Tesla sold 1.3 million EVs worldwide. The company does not divide sales by country. For the past two years, Ford said it about $3 billion lost on its EV and digital services business, a unit now known as Model e. The company does not expect the Model e to be profitable until late 2026 with an operating profit margin of 8%. However, Ford’s traditional gas-powered engine units were profitable enough to offset those losses.
In terms of production, Ford is targeting 600,000 EV units by the end of 2023 and 2 million by the end of 2026.
Tesla said it aims to achieve a 50% compound annual growth rate by 2023, which should see the automaker produce 1.8 million cars.