The lawsuit Apple faces for poaching battery engineers from A123 Systems is a further sign it may be developing an electric car. Fred Katayama reports.
Apple's being sued for poaching talent. The lawsuit comes from car battery maker A123 Systems. It's a further sign that the iPhone maker may be trying to get into the electric car business. The suit says Apple has been developing a large-scale battery division and has been aggressively poaching engineers for it since June last year. But Kelley Blue Book senior market analyst Alec Gutierrez says that won't stop Apple. SOUNDBITE: ALEX GUTIERREZ, SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, KELLEY BLUE BOOK (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Granted it might slow them down in terms of getting additional talent out of A123, but as we've seen, Apple is clearly working very hard to get talent not only out of battery maker A123 but they've been working with Tesla, they've poached folks from Mercedes-Benz." ... such as the former head of Mercedes-Benz's Silicon Valley R&D unit. And a search of LinkedIn profiles shows Apple has hired more than 60 alumni of electric vehicle king Tesla. News of the suit comes a week after the Wall Street Journal reported that several hundred people are toiling in a secret lab near Apple's headquarters for project "Titan," which revolves around a minivan-looking vehicle. Apple is already aiming for the dashboard. It's taking on Google's Android Auto with its CarPlay software that connects drivers with their iPhones and apps. But as a maker of electric cars, Apple would be a latecomer. Tesla has been selling its luxury vehicles for three years. And sources say beginning next year, GM will build the $30,000 Bolt electric car. But EV sales are so tiny, analysts say there's plenty of room for entry. If Apple enters the race, Gutierrez says look for design to set it apart, and its ability to pull in a new crowd. SOUNDBITE: ALEX GUTIERREZ, SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, KELLEY BLUE BOOK (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Auto manufacturers have faced challenges reaching millenials and the younger generation. Apple seems like the brand that can bridge that gap, get folks get excited about getting cars again." Tesla's chief is excited thinking about Apple in a different light. Elon Musk said last week Tesla's market value could rival that of Apple's by 2025.