Elon Musk reached out to Apple chief executive Tim Cook to discuss the possible purchase of Tesla in the past, but was rebuffed.
Mr Musk said he approached Mr Cook during the “darkest days” of the development of Tesla’s Model 3 sedan – currently the world's top-selling electric car – and was willing to sell the company for one-tenth of the current value. Production of the Model 3 sedan faced delays and some of the cars had defects, which dented the company's revenues.
“During the darkest days of the Model 3 programme, I reached out to Tim Cook to discuss the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla [for 1/10 of our current value],” Mr Musk said on Twitter.
“He refused to take the meeting,” Mr Musk added.
In 2017, Tesla invested large amounts of capital to increase the production of the Model 3 and Mr Musk told employees at the time that the company faced a phase of “production hell” for six months or longer. Bloomberg said Tesla was expecting $60bn when it approached Apple.
Mr Musk's latest comments followed reports on Tuesday that Apple aims to produce its first electric car by 2024.
Apple secretly started its automated and electric vehicles development – Project Titan – in 2014. It has yet to publicly discuss any of its self-driving goals, but nearly 5,000 engineers and scientists were reported to be working on the project as of 2018.
Mr Musk also questioned the nature of technology that Apple is planning to use in its batteries. The iPhone maker is exploring the potential use of cost-effective LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries that are safer to use than other lithium-ion batteries and are less likely to overheat.
“Tesla already uses iron-phosphate for medium-range cars … made in our Shanghai factory,” Mr Musk said.
In recent years, Apple has hired a number of former Tesla executives to strengthen its EV ambitions.
Doug Field, who worked with Apple between 2011 and 2013 before moving to Tesla, returned to oversee the project in 2018 as vice president of special projects.
Steve MacManus, another Tesla veteran, joined Apple as a senior director in July 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the focus on the future of cars. With Tesla joining the S&P 500 index this month, some industry analysts say EVs are set to dominate the global auto market. President-elect Joe Biden’s triumph in the US elections and China announcing plans to boost the sector have propelled the industry.
Among EV manufacturers, Tesla continued as market leader last year, with 370,000 units sold globally and a market share of about 16 per cent, from 12 per cent in 2018, according to McKinsey’s EV index.
In October, Tesla said it is on track to deliver 500,000 cars in 2020, a 36 per cent increase from 2019, despite weaker sales in the rest of the global auto industry.