Apple, Inc. on Friday leaked that the iconic smartphone maker is on a crash program to design an electric vehicle and is bidding big bucks to recruit Tesla employees. Court filings also disclose that electric-car battery maker A123 Systems is suing Apple for illegally poaching top engineers to build a large-scale battery division.
Apple has been poaching engineers with top electric propulsion expertise for car systems from Tesla Inc. and other companies to learn how to make its own electric car, Breitbart News reported recently. A federal lawsuit filed earlier this month in Massachusetts suggests that Apple has also been pursuing the country’s leading experts in advanced battery development.
The Law360.com website states that “Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123.” A123 Systems was subsidized by a $249 million US government grant to develop highly advanced industrial lithium-ion batteries for autos and industrial purposes, before filing for bankruptcy in 2012. It has since been liquidating its assets.
The lawsuit over poaching comes less than a month after allegations emerged that Apple was colluding to negotiate “no-poaching” agreements to prevent tens of thousands of engineers in Silicon Valley from being recruited by competing companies. Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs had been depicted in a series of lawsuits referred to as “High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation” as the conniving ringleader of a scheme designed to minimize the chances that top computer programmers and other talented employees would defect to other technology companies.
The A123 lawsuit states that the engineers who left were so important to the projects they had been working on that those projects had to be abandoned after their departures. In the complaint, A123 said it believed Apple was also trying to hire battery engineers from LG Chem Ltd, Samsung SDI Co Ltd, Panasonic Corp, Toshiba Corp and Johnson Controls.
Last week, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said at the Detroit Car Show that he was there “to talk about electric vehicles and to do what I can encourage the other car companies to accelerate their electric vehicle programs.” Musk said Tesla’s “open-sourced” patents “actually don’t require any formal discussions. So they can just go ahead and use them.” Twenty-Four hours later, Apple leaked they are designing an “autonomous vehicle.”
Breitbart reported that Apple was recruiting Tesla staff by offering $250,000 starting bonuses and 60% pay bumps to jump to Apple. At the time, Apple had about 50 former Tesla employees on the books, but a search of LinkedIn profiles reveals more than 60 former Tesla employees now employed by Apple, including dozens of hardware, software, manufacturing and supply chain engineers. There are also a variety of ex-Tesla recruiters, retail or sales specialists, attorneys and product managers.
LinkedIn profiles show that at least 11 former A123 engineers have moved over to Apple.