Elon Musk proposed on Thursday during one Twitter Spaces with Ford CEO Jim Farley that Tesla could open some of its automotive operating system code to other automakers.
“In the same way that Android might be helpful as some sort of common standard for the phone industry, in the same way that we might be able to open-source more code,” Musk said. If Tesla takes this step, it will compete with Google, which has developed an Android-based automotive operating system, and Apple.
Musk responded to Farley’s comment that developing a “fully software-upgradable vehicle” was “extremely difficult.” The billionaire executive said Tesla would be happy to “help out on the software front.”
Musk made the comment during a Twitter space used to announce a milestone agreement between Tesla and Ford. As part of the agreement announced Thursday, Ford’s electric vehicle customers will gain access to the Tesla Supercharger network in the United States USA and Canada. More importantly, Ford has agreed to integrate Tesla’s charging port into its second generation of electric vehicles, which includes a truck and a three-row SUV, starting in 2025.
Musk often comes up with ideas for Tesla at live events, some of which materialize and some don’t. If Tesla tried to commercialize its over-the-air upgradable software for other vehicles, the automaker would find itself in direct competition with Google and Apple.
Google offers automakers Android automotive operating system, which is modeled after its open-source mobile operating system running on Linux modified for use in cars. With the announcement last June, Apple also got into the operating system game that’s it Next-gen CarPlay aims to power the entire instrument cluster 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.
Partnerships in the supply chain
Musk and Farley also hinted at other possible future partnerships on Thursday, including in the supply chain.
The Ford boss asked Musk about the new Tesla Corpus Christi Lithium Refining Plant. Ford recently closed a number of dealsincluding with Albemarle and SQM to ensure the automaker’s access to lithium.
Musk echoed previous concerns that there weren’t enough entrepreneurs involved in mining and processing commodities in the US and that he wished Tesla didn’t have to fill the gap. He said the company has a nickel-based cathode refinery in Austin and may need to get into anode manufacturing as well, 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).
Despite everything, the two CEOs remained friendly at times compete against each other. Musk has praised the automaker in the past, and has repeatedly pointed out that only Tesla and Ford have done so avoided bankruptcy.
Ford, along with other long-established automakers, is still looking to oust Tesla as the No. 1 seller of electric vehicles in the United States. Ford still has a long way to go.
In 2022, Ford sold 61,575 EVs in the US, Tesla sold 1.3 million EVs worldwide. The company does not break down sales by country. For the past two years, Ford has said it lost about $3 billion in its electric vehicle and digital services business, a unit now known as the Model e. The company doesn’t expect the Model e to be profitable until late 2026, with an operating profit margin of 8%. However, Ford’s traditional gasoline engines were profitable enough to offset these losses.
In terms of production, Ford aims to reach 600,000 electric vehicles 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 in 2023, allowing the automaker to produce 1.8 million cars.