During a Twitter Spaces conversation with Ford CEO Jim Farley, Elon Musk hinted at the possibility of Tesla making some of its automotive operating system code open source for other automakers. Drawing a comparison to Android’s impact on the phone industry as a general standard, Musk expressed interest in potentially sharing more code. This move could position Tesla in competition with Google, which has its own automotive operating system based on Android, as well as Apple.
Musk’s statement was in response to Farley’s acknowledgment of the challenges involved in creating a “fully software-updatable vehicle.” Musk assured that Tesla would be willing to assist in the software realm. This conversation took place during a Twitter Spaces event where a significant agreement between Tesla and Ford was also announced. Under this agreement, Ford’s EV customers will gain access to Tesla’s Supercharging network in the United States and Canada. Moreover, Ford has committed to integrating Tesla’s charging port into its upcoming second-generation EVs, including a truck and a three-row SUV, starting in 2025.
Elon Musk often shares speculative ideas for Tesla at live events, and while some materialize, others do not. If Tesla were to expand its over-the-air updatable software to other vehicles, it would directly compete with Google and Apple in the operating system space. Google provides automakers with Android Automotive OS, a modified version of its open-source mobile operating system designed for vehicles. Apple, on the other hand, aims to power a vehicle’s entire instrument cluster through its next-generation CarPlay. Both companies offer middleware products, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, that connect smartphones to a car’s infotainment system.
Furthermore, during their conversation, Musk and Farley hinted at potential future partnerships, including in the supply chain. Farley inquired about Tesla’s Corpus Christi lithium refining plant. Ford has recently secured partnerships, including agreements with Albemarle and SQM, to ensure access to lithium for its vehicles. Musk reiterated the scarcity of entrepreneurs involved in raw materials mining and processing in the U.S. and expressed his desire for Tesla not to have to compensate for this gap. He mentioned Tesla’s nickel-based cathode refinery in Austin and the potential need for anode manufacturing involvement.
The CEOs have maintained a friendly relationship despite their competition. Musk has previously praised Ford, noting that only Tesla and Ford managed to avoid bankruptcy. Ford, like other traditional automakers, is striving to challenge Tesla’s position as the leading seller of EVs in the United States. However, Ford has a considerable distance to cover. In 2022, Ford sold 61,575 electric vehicles in the U.S., while Tesla sold 1.3 million globally (specific country sales breakdown not available). Ford’s EV and digital services business, now known as Model E, has incurred losses of approximately $3 billion over the past two years. Ford does not expect Model E to become profitable until late 2026, with an 8% operating profit margin. However, Ford’s traditional gas-powered engine units have managed to offset these losses.
In terms of production targets, Ford aims to reach 600,000 EV units by the end of 2023 and 2 million by the end of 2026. Tesla, on the other hand, has set a goal of achieving a 50% compound annual growth rate in 2023, which would result in the production of 1.8 million cars.